Patrick Gardner

Eleven Virtuous Pieces
for piano solo

total duration: 38 minutes
(NB: individual pieces may be performed separately)

Eleven Virtuous Pieces

In earlier piano pieces I used the music to express strong emotion ("Dark Vows", "Endpiece with"), or to make non-musical points ("Serious Insomnia", Illustrated Characters"). It seemed that, to achieve the pieces, I had to distort or ignore the true nature of the musical I was using. I was bending it to my will rather than co-operating with it. With the Eleven Virtuous Pieces I have tried to create a more balanced kind of music. It's a music that plays with ideas and follows where they lead, a music with no hidden agenda and no emotional blackmail, a music that balances fantasy and invention – which is why I call it "Virtuous".

I: A prelude for the cycle. It introduces the sequence of three-note cells from which much of the cycle's material is derived and it establishes its basic palette of playful toccata and supple melody.

II: A more forceful piece, that puts pressure on the ideas of toccata and melody introduced in I. It is based on a 12-note row which will recur during the cycle.

III: An explosion in space, which sets in motion 5 separate number sequences, whose melodic material is derived from the cell sequence introduced earlier. (The number sequences continue to work themselves out in IIIa, during the rest of the cycle and on into the "Appendix", with ever longer silences, finishing approximately 9 hrs 10 mins after the beginning of the first piece). Most of the music is in the silences and in the way simultaneous entries affect one another.

IV: Each of the pieces examines a different section of the notes from the cell sequence. This piece is a set of simple, tender melodic variations.

V: A dance piece. The cell sequence is exposed and treated in a more deliberate manner, overlaid by a rhythmic sequence of crotchets and quavers.

VI: Passacaglia In Memoriam A. Schnittke. Time in slow motion, time in swift moments. The statements of the theme divide the piece into nine clear sections. The part of the cell sequence chosen for this piece was used to construct most of its chords, as well as the drawn out melody in the fourth section.

VII: – not really a parody. The cycle has already touched on various non-classical styles. Half the piece uses the note-row from II, and half uses someone else's rather more famous row. The difference between the two is used to shuffle the boogie section. The ritornello uses the cells chosen for this piece.

VIII: Another two-part invention/another version of VII. An exercise in emotional restraint, where the cell sequence from III is transformed into that used throughout the cycle.

IX: Sphinx-like "neumes".

X: A recapitulation for the cycle revisiting textures, techniques, materials and emotions.

XI: A second, shorter recapitulation, focussing, in turn, on the cells devoted to each piece, and setting an emotional seal on the work.

Patrick Gardner studied with David Lumsdaine at Durham University, graduating in 1980. Since that time he has been active as a composer, performer and teacher.

He has produced a fair amount of chamber music as well as a few larger pieces. Part of his "Songs from the Cro-Magnon Bird Man" (Org.+ Bar.) was workshop-ed by the spnm in 1988. At the same time he has been composing and performing in "popular" styles, with over 150 songs to his name.

His cycle of piano pieces "Eleven Virtuous Pieces" has been selected for the spnm 2000/01 shortlist. The cycle, (pitched at a Grade VIII+) covers a range of "modern" styles, linked by a concern for melodic expression and audible musical process.

Patrick Gardner is currently studying in France.

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