Performance: Rachel Handman, violin; Ping Jin, violin; Liz Handman, viola; Susan Seligman, cello
When cellist Susan Seligman approached me to write an ‘encore length’ piece for string quartet, I was intrigued. I had just completed a cantata for chorus with orchestra, and I welcomed the chance to work with a smaller, more precise ensemble.
“Bagatelle” is written in ternary form. The beginning and
ending sections are quick and lighthearted. The viola has the lead, accompanied
by the violins, which alternate a little galloping motive with portamento
slides, while the cello maintains a rhythmic pizzicato accompaniment. The middle
section is more lyrical. The first violin and cello play a plaintive, arching
duet, while the second violin and viola play sparse pizzicato; then the roles
are reversed, several times. After a brief transition the first theme is again
introduced by the viola, in a somewhat modified form, and then picked up by the
other instruments; the piece ends suddenly on a pizzicato chord.