for violin and bass trombone
Dynamic Duo is occasioned by the extraordinary skills of my nephew, bass trombonist Felix Del Tredici and my dear friend, violinist Mark Peskanov.
“What would it be like,” I mused, “to bring the two together – musically?”
“It would be a civilization premiere!” said a friend. That is to say, it may well be the first piece ever written for this bizarre combination.
Further, Dynamic Duo, is a transcription – much expanded – of a movement from my 2009 solo guitar piece, Facts of Life.
Dynamic Duo exploits the very special effects (including singing) developed by Felix, in combination with Mark’s extravagant virtuosity and expressive power. The violin must, in effect, find a way to engage the trombone-beast, charm him, and still get out alive.
March to Tonality presents a David Del Tredici with whom listeners may be less familiar. Rather than the action-packed vocal and large ensemble music that is his calling card, this collection of chamber works, all recorded for the first time, showcase Del Tredici’s dense, dramatic writing for chamber forces.
The double-album opens with Del Tredici’s Grand Trio. The rippling energy of the opening figure from pianist Steven Beck sets the pace for the first three movements, which are all played attacca. Throughout this thirty minute climb, Del Tredici recontextualizes several familiar musical fixtures in their synthesis. As the work unfolds, moments reminiscent of Mozart, Mahler, and Mingus flow together elegantly, building towards the dramatic climax of the work, which (of course) is a fugue. The work closes with its shortest movement, Reminiscence – Allegretto amabile. Aptly titled, this movement looks back on the the rest of the work with a nostalgic, rose-tinted filter.
String Quartet No. 1 occupies the final three tracks of the first album. Innocence and Experiencecontain many tender moments, but the heart of this work is in the third movement, Grosse Tarantelle. This final third moment is nearly twice as long as the first two movements combined, and sustains the ecstatic energy of the opening throughout the entire movement. Even as the music slows later in the movement, one still hears vestiges of the opening figure rippling through the ensemble.
The tragic story of teen suicides inspires another of the pieces. Exactly halfway through Bullycide, the names of five young people who took their lives due to bullying are whispered. Again, in another work, an overtly emotional moment like this might betray the material that both precedes and follows it, but both Del Tredici’s pacing and the intimacy of the ensemble’s playing allow this to be the piece’s highpoint.
Not to be overlooked in the midst of the other, significantly larger, pieces on this double album, the chemistry of violinist Mark Peskanov and bass trombonist Felix Del Tredici brings this unusual combination together seamlessly in Dynamic Duo. While the Batman reference is (presumably) unintentional, it is still somewhat apt. In Del Tredici’s Dynamic Duo, the bass trombone is a clear leader, outfitted with equipment and skills to boot. Del Tredici presents a broad spectrum of possibility for this instrument through mutes and extended techniques, including singing through the instrument to create a haunting, metallic echo of the human voice.The final track, The Felix Variations, showcases Felix Del Tredici in a solo format. Initially unsure what else the bass trombone had to offer, each variation seemed to scold my lack of imagination, presenting a rich palette of colors and textures while never compromising expression for effect.
Grand, never gauche, and cunning without camp, Del Tredici toes a fine line in embracing a postmodern aesthetic without the emotional separation of irony. The constant rise in dramatic tension across the first half-hour of the Grand Trio, the disproportionate length of the finale of String Quartet No. 1, and the use of a myriad extended techniques in Dynamic Duo and The Felix Variations all prove powerfully expressive. March to Tonality is a longer play, but didn’t out stay its welcome.
"Perhaps the most surprising work is David Del Tredici’s Dynamic Duo for violin and bass trombone, a combination never imagined in the world of music previous to this. Mark Peskanov, that fine violinist who leads BargeMusic as President/Artistic and Executive Director, and who has the imagination to program these oddities, is the fiddler to Felix Del Tredici. One would have imagined that the contrast would be the raison d’être, (à la Berlioz’ piccolo and trombone in the Requiem), but no, the two artists play mirror images, imitate each other, form a kind of an enchanting rebus puzzle."