The Duo for Violin and Cello returns on July 26th to the prestigious Maverick Concerts in Woodstock, NY, performed by members of Latitude 41, an international trio whose violinist, Livia Sohn, will be joined by cellist Luigi Piovano. Learn more about the Duo here. Visit the Maverick Cocnerts website by clicking here.
In the repertoire for solo violin and cello, the Ravel sonata stands out as the singular masterpiece, the work all subsequent composers had to measure themselves against. Hagen acknowledges this debt by making the first movement of his duo an Homage a Ravel. He borrows Ravel's thematic material and style, but combines them in his own unique way. Each instrument takes the lead in turn, while the other plays arpeggios or double stops. The effect is to make the sound fuller, as if it were a much larger ensemble.
Hagen's gift for melody is clearly revealed in the slow movement, Love Song. Again, the parts take turns, playing either the melody or a repeated rhythmic motif, occasionally coming together to sing in harmony. As in a love story, the two express their individuality and then create something greater than themselves by joining together.
The central movement of this five-movement work is called the Minute Scherzo, and indeed it has sixty measures, each of which is to be played in one second. Once again, double stops and varying sound textures (vigorous bowing with gentle runs) give the overall impression that there are more than two people performing.
Hagen's compositions often make use of an arched structure, so that the fourth movement recalls the second, and the last recapitulates the first. After the central scherzo, the Reprise presents the themes from the Love Song, here written more elaborately. The relationship has matured. The instruments play together throughout the movement, and the sound is warm and contented.
The Finale is entitled Homage a James Brown. Brown, known as the "Godfather of Soul," was a major influence on rock and roll through five decades, setting standards for professionalism, spectacle, and high-energy entertainment. His arrangements made use of all the instruments in rhythmically complex ways. Daron Hagen pays tribute to James Brown by using melodic elements from his hit Gravity, and by giving the violin and cello their own blues riffs (a riff, from "refrain," is the pop music term for a motif). Within the context of the blues melodies and rhythms, Hagen also completes the arch structure by recalling Ravel material from the first movement. He reprises the melody of the Love Song as well, then combines several other previous themes to give the movement symmetry within symmetry.
— Miriam Villchur Berg, 2003