Commissioned by and written for Grace Cloutier in November 2007, Aeolian Ballade is an elaborately developed prelude and fugue.
The prelude — Lento mesto — is by turns achingly romantic and sweetly expressive. Towards the end, a cadenza leads to a recapitulation, then to a climax. On the final note, without pause, an energetic fugue begins.
The fugue subject moves in even quarter-notes, forte, and outlines the scale of the Aeolian mode (already hinted at in the prelude's opening theme). The motion becomes increasingly frenetic, as quarter-notes yield to eighth-notes. At the same time, the harmony grows more chromatic, with many abrupt changes of texture and dynamics.
After a majestic climax, the fugue's headlong motion abates, revealing a mysterious dolce section built on the letters/notes "G-R(re)-A-C-E" — a reference of course to Grace Cloutier, my commissioner and dedicatee. When the fugue returns, it seems half-spent, and the mood gradually becomes more romantic, even relaxed. Having lost its edge, the fugue theme is re-harmonized con amore.
With a series of winding arpeggios, the piece returns to the prelude's last page. From a quiet beginning, the music grows to a grand climax. At the point where the fugue had earlier begun, now the ballade, having come full circle, ends.
This work exists in two versions: one for harp, the other for piano.