Commissioned by the Grneta Ensemble
I had heard Vasko Dukovski and Ismail Lumanovski perform both classical pieces and the folk music of their Macedonian heritage—the latter involving much improvisation—and I wanted to write a composition that would allow expression of these various elements of their characters. I also knew that all three players were incredible musicians and virtuosi, and so as a composer I could enjoy writing very challenging music that they would relish exploring. The Grneta Ensemble’s particular skills and artistry presented a wonderful inspiration – after all, being able to write for two clarinets together is like writing for a “super-clarinet” that plays duets with itself.
The theme of Grneta Variations has a Jewish folk character, but with syncopations and phrase shifts that are not typically found in a normal folk tune. The variations that follow have a wide variety of moods and textures, in which the many possibilities of having two clarinets, and the wide variety of sonority and registers possible with those instruments are explored. The tempo is generally lively, except for two slow sections—one a romantic version of the melody introduced in the piano, and the other a more mysterious and extended meditation. The coda of the piece begins with a murmuring figure that grows to a climactic short cadenza in the clarinets, and a quick, rather humorous return to the opening theme.
Premiere: May 2010: Grneta Ensemble, (Vasko Dukovski, Ismail Lumanovski, Alexandra Joan), Bechstein Piano Center, New York, NY
November 2010: Grneta Ensemble, WMP Concert Hall, New York, NY
April 2011: Grneta Ensemble, Shaarei Tikvah, Scarsdale, NY
April 2012: Grneta Ensemble, Ankara Music Festival, Ankara, Turkey
June 2013: Grneta Ensemble, Center for Jewish History, New York, NY
November 2014: Grneta Ensemble, Le Poisson Rouge, New York, NY (Album release concert for Sea of Reeds)
To purchase score and parts, contact Gerald Cohen: firstname.lastname@example.org
PDF version of score and parts: $20
Printed version of score and parts: $35 + postage
This track is from the album SEA OF REEDS; information on purchasing the track or the entire album is on the SEA OF REEDS page.
Grneta Variations continues to demonstrate just how good Cohen is at taking a germ of an idea and expanding it into a varied, logical journey into fine art and personal meaning. The three amigos are at the top of their form, delivering a largely conversational set that never becomes argumentative. Moments of “catch me if you can” and full-cry clarion calls (a touch saucy no less) give way to wonderfully poetic section where hints of Brahms 4th symphony and vrai “Feelings” soothe the soul and captivate the ear…The coda’s look back while still moving forward, sums up the music to a T with a conclusion that perfectly reinforces the aura of positivity that is as welcome as spring rain.
The Grneta Ensemble is also featured in Cohen’s “Grneta Variations.” In fact, Cohen wrote both “Sea of Reeds” and “Grneta Variations” with the ensemble in mind. Having worked closely with the trio over the past five years, Cohen was inspired by their virtuosic playing in both classical and folk music realms. “To have developed the musical and personal relationship with [the Grneta Ensemble] and for them to have performed these pieces many times and to really have taken them into their musical hearts and souls very fully, that has been very meaningful,” Cohen said. “For me, writing music for wonderful performers who enjoy playing the music is one of the key motivating elements for me as a composer. I love working with great performers and writing music that they’ll love playing.”
“Grneta Variations” is written in the character of a Jewish folk melody, with vivid lyricism and rich rhythmic diversity. The lively melodies and spirited performances from all members of the trio highlight the folk elements of the composition while also showcasing each performer’s virtuosity and individual musical personality.