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Triptych I. Lament

from The Smile of Maud Lewis by Nikolai Korndorf

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Triptych for cello and piano
Korndorf's Triptych for cello and piano dates from 1998-99 and was commissioned by then director of the Langley Community Music School, cellist Ian Hampton. Written around the same time as The Smile of Maud Lewis, its second movement is also rooted in his earlier Con Sordino and Lullaby.

Korndorf was a master of musical narrative, and the three movements titled Lament, Response and Glorification do indeed tell a story. Lament was commissioned in 1998. According to Hampton, upon learning of the plight of a good friend's daughter being wrongfully incarcerated in a Brazilian jail, Korndorf composed Lament as a musical response to the annual vigil kept by her parents. The movement opens with a plaintive solo cello monologue punctuated by bell-like chords in the piano. The atmosphere is one of despair that ends on a note of resignation.

Response and Glorification were commissioned in 1999. The second movement, Response, is in a contrasting mood. The cello plays a simple tune, to which Korndorf supplies the rubric, “play like a child.” A portion of this tune returns as the recorder solo in the coda of The Smile of Maud Lewis, establishing a thematic link to the chamber work. The piano recasts and continuously reorders the five-note ostinato pattern first used in Lullaby and Con Sordino. The effect enhances its child-like ambiance.

The final Glorification, like Lament, opens with a prayer-like cello solo at the bottom of its range, as if in the depths of despair. The piano enters into a dialogue with the cello intermittently punctuating the line with block chords that increase in their insistency, urgency and dynamics. The intensity rises to a final state of ecstasy and triumph.


from The Smile of Maud Lewis, released May 20, 2022


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