String Trio (2004) by Jonathan Harvey
for violin, viola, and cello

Having now written four string quartets, writing a string trio has felt rather an exposing medium. There is even less possibility of 'ensemble' texture than in a quartet, every note and sound is an individual assertion, strongly expressive almost in the way that a solo is. On the other hand, that can be quite a liberating situation: it is no longer so necessary to think vertically. The three players can pull apart and meet up at certain places. We can leave the current paradigm of the recording-studio performances we find everywhere, in which the excitement of horizontal, soloistic freedom is jettisoned for the convenience of splices which must always be of similar little takes, together in the same way each time. In composing we suffer from the same vertical thinking if we use computer-scoring, where two simultaneous and different time-worlds can scarcely be comprehended by the proscriptive program, which thereby imposes vertical strait-jackets.

So, writing my score in pencil, I sometimes exploit soloistic playing modes of simultaneously different tempi and style. In particular, there are two main (and contrasting) types of music-the rustic and the sacred. The rustic is folkloristic, and the sacred is derived from my liturgical drama Passion and Resurrection — the music associated with the discovery of the empty tomb on Easter Sunday.

The collision of these two moods is the energizing spark of this fifteen-minute work, written at the request of Harry Vogt for the Witten Festival to be played by Ensemble Recherche.

— J. H.    

[from program for February 7, 2011 concert]