Birthday Piece No. 4

April 8, 2012

These are the first two pages of my annual Birthday Piece for viola d'amore and piano. This year's piece has 53 measures. You can download the music here and listen to it here. I look forward to the chance, some day, to hear this piece and my other viola d'amore music played by a better viola d'amore player than the one I have in house (which would be me).


Anonymous said...

First of all, congratulations for the piece - you seem to be willing to explore the polyphonic possibilites of the instrument. As someone who also writes music, I'm considering the possibility of composing for 7-string viola d'amore, though I have some doubts. As a keyboardist of limited knowledge with the string department, I know at least that is practically impossible to do a prolongated triple-stop in the violin family - or in other words, that due to the curve shape of the bridge the bow can't hit a chord of three notes and prolongate it, in its entirety, in a certain amount of time (like the first chord of Bach's Chaccone). However, I see that the viola' d'amore, due to a more flattened bridge shape and its string number, might have a more easily attained polyphonic rendering. Now, here come the questions:
1.) Is it actually possible to make what I mentioned above in the viola d'amore?
2.) If it is, in what set of three strings? [Numbering the strings 1-7 from lower to higher, I am guessing that it might be easier in 2-3-4 and in 4-5-6 than in 1-2-3 and 5-6-7 - but I could be wrong]
3.) Will a non-prolongated four-note chord in forte have a decent sound? [Note that I am refering to a non-arpeggiated in 1-2-3-4 or 4-5-6-7 combinations]
And that's it for the questions. I do apologize for their number (I'm told frequently that you just can't get to shut up a 18-year-old like me) but a detailed answer for each one of them might be crucial for my work.
Thank you for the attention.
May the path of music bring enrichement, health and fulfillness to your life.

P.S.: You may answer to my e-mail:
Nevertheless, I think that a direct reply for the comment might be useful to many people with similar questions.

Elaine Fine said...

Sustaining more than two strings in any stringed instrument with a curved bridge is impossible, but the viola d'amore, because of its sympathetic strings, can give the illusion of sustaining more than two. It is possible to arpeggiate quickly, which also gives the impression of having more than two voices "active."

All in all, the instrument is quite soft, which is why you need the sympathetic strings in the first place, and it is most comfortable to play on the upper strings. There are places on the instrument that will ring out as a true forte, but it takes time to find them. Intervals of the fourth are particularly resonant, for example, but individual instruments also vary.

If you are anywhere around Innsbruck, you might consider going to some of the concerts at the upcoming viola d'amore congress (in a couple of weeks!).