Bagatelle (2004)

Performance:  Rachel Handman, violin; Ping Jin, violin; Liz Handman, viola; Susan Seligman, cello

Bagatelle.mp3  2:54

When cellist Susan Seligman approached me to write an ‘encore length’ piece for string quartet, I was intrigued.  I had just completed a cantata for chorus with orchestra, and I welcomed the chance to work with a smaller, more precise ensemble.

“Bagatelle” is written in ternary form. The beginning and ending sections are quick and lighthearted. The viola has the lead, accompanied by the violins, which alternate a little galloping motive with portamento slides, while the cello maintains a rhythmic pizzicato accompaniment. The middle section is more lyrical. The first violin and cello play a plaintive, arching duet, while the second violin and viola play sparse pizzicato; then the roles are reversed, several times. After a brief transition the first theme is again introduced by the viola, in a somewhat modified form, and then picked up by the other instruments; the piece ends suddenly on a pizzicato chord.

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