Review


Pierce Gradone
Ficta for Trombone and Violin:
Trombone and violin

Galesburg, Illinois, United States
Publisher: Jamescrest Music
Date of Publication: 2011

Two scores.

Genre: SOLO MATERIALS

Pierce Gradone holds degrees in composition from the University of Texas, Florida State University and the Ph.D. from the University of Chicago. He currently serves as assistant professor of music composition at Knox College. His works have been performed throughout the world by groups such as Eighth Blackbird, Ensemble Signal, Imani Winds, Riot Ensemble, Pacifica Quartet, and the Chicago Civic Orchestra. His music has also won numerous prizes from organizations including the Lyra Society of Philadelphia Costello Competition, the American Modern Ensemble Competition, the Chicago Civic Orchestra Composer’s Project and the Luna Nova Composition Competition. His other works for trombone include Rundfunk for bass trombone and piano, Bassploitation for bass trombone and piano, Loggerheads for trombone choir and That Dark Electric: Concerto for Trombone and Chamber Ensemble. Ficta was commissioned and premiered in 2010 by trombonist Steven Parker and violinist Molly Emerman. The composer writes the following: 

Ficta was written for the Folk Re-Imagined project undertaken by trombonist Steven Parker and violinist Molly Emerman, which sought to discover new connections between modern art music and folk music from various sources. In lieu of a found source, I attempted to construct folk music from an imaginary culture – crypto musicology. The unlikely marriage of the violin and trombone was a fascinating inspiration for Ficta. Although the differences between the two are clear, I was more interested in their common traits, which I wished to exploit as much as possible. My first thought turned to their ability to play non-tempered pitches and the relative ease with which they can perform glissandi. Throughout the piece, the identities of the two are interwoven and juxtaposed. My work reflects the strange brew of musical experiences that made up my musical formation - playing in garage bands, orchestras, musical theater troupes, and Pentecostal church services. As a result, my pieces tend to address a wide range of issues and concepts, from technological reproduction to improvisational comedy.

The overall design is traditional (ABA’Coda) with the A section in a slow tempo exploring various glissandi, the trombone with Harmon mute and the violin with many double stops. This section explores interesting and fascinating color combinations and tonalities. The two instruments are so interwoven that at times it is difficult to tell them apart. The B section is rhythmic, energetic and dance-like. Some of it is in 7/8 meter and other odd meters with running sixteenth notes in both parts. The trombone is now open and the balance problem is addressed with differing dynamic indications as well as contrasting melodic lines. The tempo slows and the Harmon mute returns with more explorations of timbre and sonic possibilities. The coda is a brief return to the energetic dance-like section with a positive ff ending. The writing is fairly conservative in its harmonic, melodic and rhythmic structures. It is, however, quite interesting and innovative in exploring the duet possibilities between these two seemingly disparate instruments. The trombone part is mostly traditional in its musical and technical demands but does require a mature musician. There is a recording with the score available at http://piercegradone.com/?page_id=269.

Reviewer: Karl Hinterbichler
Review Published November 22, 2019