Margarita Zelenaia


Year: 1998

Duration (in minutes): 12'39;09

Difficulty: High (professional)

Category: piano

Publisher: Self-Produced

Description: The piano cycle 'Pantomimes' received its world premiere in Carnegie Hall in 2001 with the pianist Ana Maria Bottazzi. It was also played at the 'New Music North Festival' (Canada) and by the Italian pianist Paolo Vergari.
At its heart are three of history’s most popular figures: Pierrot (Pierrot’s Dreams), Colombine (Colombine’s Fantasy), and Harlequin (Harlequin’s Grimace). Each figure, the invention of the composer’s fantasy, is so intensely felt that it becomes almost visible. A genre expressive of the romantic inclination, the dream is characterisrtic of the entire cycle and is especially appropriate for Pierrot, who is mournful, pessimistic, and generally misunderstood. He passes his time in borderline states between reality and dreams, between disappointment and hope. The motif of the first two measures, which is simple and suggestive of a hurdy-gurdy, sets into motion the variation that, with a descending second, is developed throughout the composition. The variation proceeds through several stages: from a transparent beginning, symbolizing the hero’s submersion in sleep, to a question hanging in the air without an answer; from a yearning to break free from loneliness, to resignation to a lifetime of daydreaming.
At the basis of Colombine’s Fantasy (second movement) are femininity, caprice, and charm. A genuine picture of femininity and fantasies seems to be spun from the short, high-registered inquiring phrases, the free rhythmic flow, and the soft harmonies. In the middle of the work, there arise the elements of the dance-seduction: against an ostinato figure coquettishly spinning incantations appear. A seeming delusion, however, this image, having achieved its apogee, hits up against reality. And then everything turns to the original dreamily contemplative state.
In the third movement, Harlequin’s Grimace, the image of Harlequin is full of tragic irony. Comedy allows him to be ironic and to laugh out loud, to make grimaces and parody each and everyone, including himself. The musical phrases are combined according to the principle of contrast: rhythmic running start and crescendo, followed by a sharp halt. Unexpected accents, rhythmic displacement, and changes in register paint a sharp-angled and eccentric picture. As though mocking the whole world, he becomes so enraged that he takes on an unbelievable tempo, and it seems that his heart will give out and he will drop dead from exhaustion. Constant changes in tempo convey his fickle mood. Yet the fire of his old tricks dies out, and Harlequin takes his ceremonious bow.

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