Chamber Music Society – “Scope” by Paul Griffiths (March 11, 2021)
Written by Paul Griffiths
Published by Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center - Scope
By Paul Griffiths
Scope (Dichotomy and Range)
Our ears, more than our eyes, are quick to make associations. Listening to music, we instantly analyse a sound. What instrument? How high or low? How loud? How clear? Where? A succession of sounds will arouse other questions, and already the connections are starting to accumulate—the aspects that, though sometimes called “extra-musical,” are essential to the musical experience, to how music engages the memory and the imagination. This reminds me of hiking in the mountains. This sounds like gentle waves.
In this evening’s program we have relatively short pieces, for limited forces. And yet in each case the scope is wide, the richness that often depends on how the music will find echoes in other areas of our experience: awareness of nature, emotion, other music, other art. Reverberation across a dichotomy creates range.
The opening piece, by Andreia Pinto Correia, invites us to open our listening toward folk song and visual art. An important stimulus for the work came from a recording of a rural work song from the composer’s native Portugal, Tralhoada, which offered a quick study in call-response form, in fast, emphatic rushes up to principal notes, and in hardy drive. In Pinto Correia’s piece, from 2009, the call elements are short, similar, and always repeated. The responses are longer, and mix ideas from the preceding call with others (including a quick, narrow-register dance). Violin and viola suggest a whole string orchestra. A tralhoada, in Portuguese, is a lot of little things—a meaning reflected in the Fragmentos Múltiplos part of the title. But the composer is also referring here to the work of a painter, Maria Helena Vieira da Silva (1908-92), who, like her, began life in Portugal but moved abroad (to France for Vieira da Silva, to the United States for Pinto Correia) to complete her education and settle. Vieira da Silva’s paintings are remarkable for their multiple perspectives, and for how they hover between suggesting cityscapes as seen from colliding points of view and being abstract designs of horizontal and vertical lines. The Museum of Modern Art has two Vieira da Silvas, and though these are not on show at the moment, images of them and many others may be found online.