Masques et Visages (1999) by Ellen Ruth Harrison
for oboe, violin, viola, and cello
West Coast premiere

I. Masks of Regret
II. The Furies Unleashed

In the first movement of Masques et Visages (1998-1999), the oboe portrays a series of contrasting characters much like the many and varied expressions of the masks one might see at a venetian masked ball. These characters range from dramatic to lyrical, from playful to plaintive. The strings provide a web of sound behind the masks, at times appearing as phantoms in the shadows, and at other times bursting forth in a flash of color. They play a more prominent role in the second movement where, in several rhythmically complex sections, they escape the confines of 3/4 time to ricochet madly around an imaginary hall like shadows of present and former dancers, or perhaps like the Furies themselves. The oboe soon asserts itself, however, and once again dons a variety of masks, from tranquil and melancholy to bold and impetuous. The piece closes with a return to the oboe's opening expression, followed by a soft reminder of the strings' rhythms as the shadows of former dancers slowly slip away. Masques et Visages was written for the Linton Chamber Music Series with the support of the Ohio Arts Council.

— E. H.    

[from program for February 5, 2001 concert]