Program Note for Three Pairs Suite (2009)

(Mvt. I)

(Mvt. III)


  1. Overture
  2. Nocturne
  3. Variations
  4. Intermezzo
  5. Musette
  6. Chorale and Dance

Three Pairs Suite was commissioned by Stephanie Sant’Ambrogio, Artistic Director of the Cactus Pear Music Festival for their 2010 summer concerts.  When I was first approached about writing this piece, I immediately thought of composing something in reference to the cactus pear – something sweet and something prickly - that would serve as lighter fare for those hot summer days in San Antonio.  My initial ideas led me to a suite written for three pairs: two woodwinds, two strings, and two percussion instruments.  The idea of a suite also gave me the chance to re-examine classical models that work in a more direct and tuneful style and I wondered if old elements could be reworked into fresh material.

The result is a work meant to charm, surprise, and entertain.  The overture starts with a traditional dotted rhythm that soon gives way to a number of ideas framed in an energetic allegro.  The nocturne uses calm, open fifths and a delicate melodic line.  The next three movements are meant to be played in quick succession.  The variations are very mechanical, but sound something like a jam session gone awry.  The intermezzo – marked “a bit sinister,” use a rhythm from a courante by J.S. Bach in a scherzo frame.  The musette exploits drones of fifths and is also playful in nature.  (The percussion, who rested in the intermezzo, nearly takes over at one point.) The closing chorale and dance alternates between a chorale and a syncopated, contrapuntal section.  The work closes by revisiting material from the rest of the suite.