Elegy for viola & piano

for viola & piano (1989)
American Composers Alliance, 10 minutes
Navona Recording

“a moody, somber, interesting work with moments of real beauty”
(Journal of the American Viola Society)
“poised, soulful” (Boston Globe)

Elegy for viola and piano is a short, powerful, sometimes angry, sometimes soulful movement written in 1989. It is the fifth in a series of introspective pieces for solo instruments including music for piano, violin, cello, harp, flute, clarinet, horn and mandolin.

A review in the Journal of the American Viola Society describes the piece as “broody and attractive.” The critic goes on to describe the music as follows: “The work begins with an introduction for both instruments followed by a cadenza for viola alone. The bulk of the piece involves a series of phrases which sound improvisatory, usually six to eight measures long, during which the two instruments engage in dialogue… The piano writing is quite sparse, so the viola can be soft, eloquent, and non-competitive. Now and then a recognizable theme or motive appears, but mostly this music seems to grow out of itself using figuration and rhythmic cells as unifying elements. The harmonic style is atonal, but not abrasively dissonant. Toward the end, a tonal center on A-natural emerges. This is a moody, somber interesting work with moments of real beauty, couched in a late twentieth-century idiom that is fresh.”

The premiere of the piece was given by violist Patricia McCarty at the Longy School of Music in 1990. Elegy has also been performed by the composer’s daughter, Andrea Vercoe, at Oberlin College, as well as on a festival of music by students of Ross Lee Finney at the University of Colorado in 1998, at Connecticut College in 1999 by violist Consuela Sherba, and in 2014 by members of counter)induction (Jessica Meyer, viola, and Ning Yu, piano) at Bruno Walter Hall at the Library of the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center celebrating the 75th anniversary of the American Music Center.