The Summer Triangle for clarinet, violin and piano (2015)
Kevin Schempf – clarinet    Stephen Miahky – violin   Laura Melton – piano
 
III. Dry Heat
IV. Five by Three

The Summer Triangle is a portrait of my stay in the Utah desert as represented by the nightly procession of a seasonal asterism. The five movements of the piece, played together without pause, reflect on individual aspects as well as more general sentiments experienced during that time. A brief description of each movement’s title follows—

I. The Veneer of Spring is a clarinet and violin duo that draws material from Claude Le Jeune’s 1603 chanson, Revecy venir du printemps [Here again comes the Spring]. The title plays on the French verb venir and the English veneer (from the German, furnier). While the movement serves as the “surface” of the composition, its title also references the verdant luster of the season.

II. Isosceles (a triangle having two equal sides) brings the piano into the piece where it forms a triangle of sorts with the others. Throughout the remainder of the work, the piano acts in opposition to the clarinet/violin duo. In Isosceles, this tension is marked by stark contrapuntal opposition and a jagged rhythmic profile.

III. Dry Heat is a cadenza for solo piano. The title draws from the common remark that the dry heat of the desert is more bearable than high humidity heat. This may be true for some, but the heat of the desert is stifling in its own, oven-like way and can be insidious in the false sense of comfort it presents. This movement projects a similar quality. Along with the demanding physical challenges of performing the piece, the crackling, staccato passages and dense, rapid arpeggios depict something both urgent and ominous.

IV. Five by Three begins with a syncopated yet sturdy gesture in the violin, pizzicato. The piano brusquely responds with a repeated, five-note figure after which the clarinet tiptoes in, echoing the violin. The movement continues in this argument/response manner, juxtaposing materials and instrumental combinations while gradually gaining intensity and momentum, ultimately spilling over into movement five.

V. Au Revoir, Aquila. The stars of the Summer Triangle, the asterism, are the brightest in their respective constellations: Vega in Lyra the lyre, Deneb in Cygnus the swan, and Altair in Aquila the eagle. Altair is the last of the three stars to arrive in May and also the first to depart from view in October. As Aquila carries it over the Western horizon, the trio is disbanded for the winter. Similarly, the music of the final movement gradually dissolves, recalling textures and fragments of melody from the previous four movements as it recedes.