David Sampson (1998)
Dectet for Oboe, Clarinet, Horn, Bassoon, 2 Violins,
Viola, Violoncello, Double Bass and Piano was written on commission
for the Chicago Chamber Musicians and completed on September 23, 1998.
It is an unusual work for me because there is no program or narrative
impetus in any of the movements except for the second. This means that
writing about the music becomes a bit pale compared to the actual sounds
themselves, which stand quite well on their own.
I can reveal that the
first movement begins ominously with a sustained pedal in the bass and
ostinato figures in the other strings while the winds create long lines
over this texture, but until you hear the actual sounds, this could
describe a thousand other pieces. I could mention that the third movement
owes its life to Shostakovich with his twisted waltzes and decadent
nostalgia, but, until you experience the playfulness of my own twisted
sequences, these are just words. I could describe how I love that the
fourth movement has this energetic, indomitable quality with a percussive
piano, swirling string lines and screaming winds, but you may think
me merely boastful. The music only lives in the music. If words could
truly duplicate or explain, we would not need to sing.
That said, I would like to tell a story around the second movement.
After completing the first movement in the middle of August, 1998, I
began the second. For several days I pondered what might follow the
rather “fearful first” with little success. Then on Friday, August 21st,
my family left me for the day to visit relatives and I struggled alone
with my still born thoughts. Eventually, I wrote down my first tentative
notes and before long I was furiously writing measure after measure.
I stopped around four in the morning having completed what I later knew
was most of the movement. The next day, when I studied what I had written,
I was surprised to find that the movement was a traditional passacaglia
with a four measure ground bass and a strong sense of loss and lament.
Its simple directness puzzled me. I continued revising the movement
the next few days. The following Wednesday I received a call from a
friend asking if I had heard about Alan. I said no and he proceeded
to tell me that Alan Balter, conductor, clarinetist, and good friend,
had died in Philadelphia on Friday night from complications after lung
surgery. I was stunned not only for the terrible, wasteful loss of a
dear friend but, also because I realized that the second movement was
so urgently created at the moment of his passing. The lament now made
sense and has added a reverent poignancy to the rest of the work.
download .doc file