Still for viola and chamber orchestra (2002, rev. 2008)

Work commissioned by the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra and the International Mozarteum Foundation (ISM)
WP: 02.02.2003, Salzburg (AT), Salzburg Mozart Week | Kim Kashkashian (viola), Dennis Russell Davies (conductor), Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra

Ruhig fließend – schneller, attacca
Ruhig fließend – schnell – ruhig fließend

Orchestra instrumentation
viola solo – strings (6/5/4/3/2) – piano (Steinway D)

Programme note
The orchestration consists of a ‘normal’ string orchestra, a piano, which also serves as a percussion instrument, as well as a solo viola. The piece is characterized over long stretches by an organ point, something which I have observed has shown up in some of my last pieces. Towards the end of the piece, this tonally stabilizing state is abandoned and the f-sharp tone, which is the organ point, is functionalized and perceived as the dominant of b-minor. The variations around the organ point, which call it into question and then return to it – are all primarily initiated and sustained by the solo instrument. The tonally static state, which occurs over longer periods, provokes rhythmic developments which drive the piece forward. At the end, the motif from the beginning reappears, reinterpreted tonally and acoustically, bringing the journey, so to speak, to an end.

The title “Still” refers primarily to the concept of the ‘video still’, a ‘frozen’ image from a video film, which is altered, processed, or perhaps left as it is. The interesting aspect of the ‘video stills’ is usually the details, the patterns which one can observe and which one does not naturally see, or which one perceives differently when it is in motion. Correspondingly, the piece deals with movement and cessation of movement. It is also about introspection and activity. ‘Still’ also means stillness, of course – and stillness is precisely an idea which I associate very much with the viola.

Thomas Larcher