“Filigree in Textile” is a program that explores the repertoire written for harp with string quartet. This lush ensemble has been exploited by both Debussy and Caplet among others, lending itself particularly well to these composers’ colorful and evocative languages. The more recent piece, ‘Filigree in Textile’ by Hannah Lash, also highlights the colors that are so characteristic of this ensemble, but seeks to bring out some of the instruments’ more edgy qualities as well, etching a contrapuntal texture featuring canons as a structural device.
Andre Caplet’s unusual and dark piece, ‘Conte Fantastique’ uses Edgar Allen Poe’s story “Masque of the Red Death” as its basis. It is in many ways a tone poem, programmatic in nature. The harp takes on an ominous and frightening character, while the strings dance and shiver. The whole piece is like a hall of mirrors, chimeras of musical materials rather than a straightforward musical argument. It is in one continuous movement, and is constantly seeming to anticipate a harmonic and structural downbeat which never quite fully arrives.
Lash’s ‘Filigree in Textile’ is a piece in three movements, inspired by the music of the Ars Subtilior when rhythmic complexity in minute divisions became the playing ground for composers. The title draws on the idea of Medieval tapestry, and the materials that were used in weaving them. Canons which are often in tiny divisions of the beat run throughout the piece. The warm and expressive first movement, “Gold,” features a line that weaves throughout all the instruments in a canon that is easily perceivable in its interplay with itself. The austere second movement, “Silver,” uses all the instruments in unison: string pizzicati blended with harp plucks. The harp gives these pizzicati resonance and all instruments participate in a kind of structural canon that does not present itself on the surface of the music. The third movement, “Silk,” is the most complex of the canons, oftentimes offsetting different entrances by a division as small as a 32nd note. The harp is in constant motion, creating the sense of flow that pervades this movement.
Claude Debussy’s ‘Danse Sacrée et Danse Profane’ has become a staple in the harp repertoire. The first movement, a gentle, almost reverent, and straightforward form, flows without pause into the second, which is a raucous and joyous dance. This is a piece that displays the kind of formal and coloristic mastery characteristic of Debussy: the flow of the music feels truly inevitable and yet constantly unexpected.
Works to be performed as part of the “Filigree in Textile” project include:
Hannah Lash, Filigree in Textile (2011)
Claude Debussy, Danse Sacrée et Danse Profane (1904)
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