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I’m very glad to have received the opportunity to write for La Belle Alliance, a duo of Tessa Petersen and John Van Buskirk. These two Dunedin musicians were very supportive of my work when I held the University of Otago Mozart Fellowship in 2012: both feature on my soundtrack to Penny Ashton’s Austenian musical Promise & Promiscuity, and John performed my 2007 piece Maeve for piano and tape.
Commissioned to deliver them a piece of no more than seven minutes, I applied the semi-official rate of composer inflation to make it something more like eight. Maybe eight and a half. (Still within the standard deviation.*) Early in the writing process I settled on a classic three-movement structure – given the total expected duration, this forced me to keep my ideas tight. (-Ish.) The journey of this work resembles my 2009 Sonatina for clarinet and piano, and given that both works are equally non-programmatic, I might as well recycle the title.
The opening moves from the high, tinkly and glassy to the brassily funky. The middle movement is based on a sparse melody I created in the moment alongside actors Christine Brooks and Rik Brown in their 2014 New Zealand Fringe Festival improv show. The finale is skittish and spiccato, featuring a rather quick theme that sits pretty nicely under my right hand on piano. All three movements are linked with a short bossa nova tune full of 9th chords, which gets reinterpreted according to the prevailing musical feel.
* I never studied Statistics. I’m probably using this term wrong.
I would really like to hear the [other] world premiere again.
Sonatina for Violin and Piano (2014), by Robbie Ellis, was an exciting modern three-movement work – Backbeat, Mimes' Theme and Skittish.
A challenging work to interpret, but Tessa Petersen (violin) and John van Buskirk (piano) conquered all.
High-register passages from both instruments, funky statements, a catchy bossa nova theme, lots of spiccato and extreme violin effects – all had the listener wondering what titillating aural effect would come next.
– Elisabeth Bouman, Otago Daily Times, 15 May 2014
Commissioned by Tessa Petersen and John Van Buskirk with funding from Creative New Zealand.
II. Mimes' Theme
14 May 2014: Performed by La Belle Alliance: Tessa Petersen (violin) and John Van Buskirk (piano), at Marama Hall, in Dunedin
08 Jun 2014: Performed by La Belle Alliance: Tessa Petersen (violin) and John Van Buskirk (piano), at James Cumming Wing, in Gore
15 Jun 2014: La Belle Alliance - WHANGAREI
13 Jul 2014: Performed by La Belle Alliance: Tessa Petersen (violin) and John Van Buskirk (piano), at Old St John's, in Nelson