Thrall

concerto for solo piano and five instruments

Jeffrey Holmes

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concerto for solo piano and five instruments

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Composer Jeffrey Holmes
Composer

Year of Composition

Instrumentation

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Duration

ca. 10'

Student Difficulty

Categories (all composers) ,
Catalogue ID ce-jh1t1

Notes

Thrall (Þræll), is a concertante work for piano and five players (flute, bass-clarinet, violin, cello, double-bass). The title comes from the Old-Norse language meaning “slave”. This title can be interpreted on numerous levels including: soloist vs. ensemble; the equal tempered confines of the piano vs. the microtonal intonations of the melodic instruments; the consistently dense texture and complete lack of rests for the soloist; as well as being personally significant while the composition of Thrall was occurring. Throughout this work the piano plays constantly, except during nine “Grand Pauses” that are inserted at moments of calm as well as moments of extreme tension. The soloist alternates between six constantly developing cadenzas, interpolated within three rotating thematic elements that are presented in close succession at the very beginning of the work. The ensemble also plays material derived from these three themes, but this material is elaborated through the use of various tunings including: equal temperament (in my “flat-octave” language); equal tempered third-tone and quarter-tone divisions; and Just Intonation harmonic approximations. Structurally, the form and content are designed around rigid applications of symmetries and distorted “oval-symmetries” and carefully balanced alterations of texture involving the soloist’s cadenzas and varying densities of accompaniment by the ensemble, all unified by a consistent harmonic language. Thrall is in its essence is a violent and dramatic work utilizing extreme virtuosity by both the soloist and the ensemble, and is built from a balance of structural integrity and emotional expression, that creates a dramatic and intense constantly varied landscape of sound.

A version of this work for solo piano is also available on Composers Edition.