Instrumentation: solo violin, piano, string quartet
Duration: ca. 18′
Premiere: 28 March 2008, Bargemusic (Brooklyn, N.Y.)
Blue Water was commissioned by the venerable New York chamber music series Bargemusic, in celebration of its thirtieth anniversary season. The premiere performance took place on 28 March 2008 at Bargemusic, Fulton Ferry Landing, in Brooklyn, N.Y. The performers were Mark Peskanov (solo violin), Doris Stevenson (piano), and the Shanghai Quartet.
The work is cast in seven movements, played without pause. The instrumentation, for a total of six musicians, varies slightly from movement to movement in the following manner:
I. quartet alone
II. all players
III. solo violin & quartet
IV. piano & quartet
V. all players
VI. all players
VII. solo violin & piano (with quartet joining only at closing)
The title refers to the nautical term for open seas (as in “blue-water sailing”). The connection to the fact that the premiere took place on a floating concert hall should be obvious, though the “barge” itself remains securely moored!
While not overtly programmatic, Blue Water does at times hint at the barest of programs, tragic in nature, and tinged nearly everywhere with a certain melancholic tone. The image of a sea-journey that does not end well could be construed. In particular, the closing bars depict the image of a drowning man’s final view, his boat rising slowly above him as he sinks, and recall to mind these words of John Donne:
So all were lost, which in the ship were found,
They in the sea being burnt, they in the burnt ship drowned.
Beyond that, it is perhaps interesting to note that nearly all of the eighteen minutes of music stem from the opening movement, especially the four-note gesture that begins the work, and which seemed to me to evoke the sense of being on the water, a prospect that both fascinates and terrifies.