Quatre / Quatre
I. “Chanson de sourire" (Smile Song)
II. "Perles noires" (Black Pearls)
III. "Chercher le lapin" (Rabbit Shopping)
My first love within percussion was timpani. I played piano from age 5, but my instrumental direction changed at age 13 within an hour of being thrown into playing timpani at a summer band camp rehearsal. (The marimba—the percussion instrument that would become the center of my musical life—came later.)
Fast forward nearly 30 years. In the course of being a guest at a few international percussion events, I became friends with Frédéric Macaraz, Principal Timpanist of the Orchestre de Paris. During a marimba competition in Stuttgart that Frédéric judged in 2002, he became inspired to compose some marimba pieces, consulted me about them, and eventually presented them to me.
While in Stuttgart, I tagged along a couple time as Frédéric shopped for gifts to bring back to France; a special string of black pearls, and a stuffed rabbit for his then-young son. These quick light-hearted escapes from the competition include a bottle of Valpolicella wine over dinner.
To reciprocate the nice gift of pieces Frédéric wrote for me, I created this 44th birthday gift for him—naturally, all in the time signature “4/4” which explains the overarching title of the piece. The aforementioned events explain the movement titles.
Thanks to Long Ye who allowed me to hear the piece for the first time when he performed it on his senior recital The Boston Conservatory (on April 22, 2012) and for his editing advice. Working with Long in preparation for that performance allowed me to finalize the score.
Nancy Zeltsman and timpani are not usually mentioned in the same sentence. This is not a misprint. According to her program notes, Zeltsman’s first love within the percussion family was timpani. The work was written for Frederic Macarez on his 44th birthday (reciprocating his compositions written for Zeltsman on marimba), hence the title “Quatre Quatre” and the choice of 4/4 time signatures and number of movements: four.
Hand-wise, the solo is not terribly challenging; foot-wise, it’s another story! Numerous pitch changes are required throughout, but they are definitely attainable. In her notes to the performer, Zeltsman states: “My aim was to make the music so lyrical and/or rhythmically ‘catchy’ that players’ determination to project the flow of the music would help pull them through the technical challenges.”
Movement I, “Chanson de sourire (Smile Song),” is written in sort of a half-time pop/funk groove with the half note at 54 bpm. The writing is “tuneful” with numerous accents, inflections, and hand dampenings that help create a nice groove. Movement II, “Perles noires (Black Pearls),” is recitative-like with more emphasis on lyricism and less demanding on the feet. The third movement, “Chercher le lapin (Rabbit Shopping),” is lyrical in nature, but also requires rhythmic precision and attention to note length through hand dampening as well as “dead” strokes. The final movement,”Valpolicella,” is an energetic pop/calypso-like groove, highly syncopated and tuneful as well.
Totaling about six minutes in length, this work offers a charming collection of short, contrasting pieces for solo timpani. Thanks for the surprise, Nancy! - Susan Martin Tariq, May 2014
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Works for Percussion by this Composer