Duration (in minutes): 6'39;
Difficulty: High (professional)
Category: small chamber ensembles - 2 to 4 players, string ensemble
Instruments: any string, cello, violin
Publisher: Subito Music Corporation
Description: Philip A. De Simone commissioned “Translations” in memory of his friend Linda J. Warren. He chose the title as a tribute to her talent for linguistics. He chose the instruments of violin and cello for their expressive qualities. Overall, this short composition is a conversation with a resolution. The title, one of whose meanings is transformation, is reflected in the work in several ways.
This short, multi-sectional work opens with the instruments in octaves. But their usual order is reversed. The cello is above the violin, in an intense range, while the violin begins with a passage on its lowest string. This gives the simple, lyrical melody an unusual coloring. The two instruments come together at one point, but never cross to their expected ranges, The cello adds a mute towards the end of the section, subtly transforming the color. The overall feeling is one of calm. Within this and the work’s other sections, the violin and cello exchange material but with variations (translations).
Out of this emerges a playful, pizzicato section with the violin on top. The violin states a motive based on a half step followed by an augmented second - the top of a harmonic minor scale, often associated with Judaism (Linda’s religious tradition). This motive is, in turn, a transformation of the half-step whole-step motive that began the piece. The passage accelerates and the color changes via the use of arco (bowed notes), until at last the section dissolves into a short passage based on the opening (using the half step of the motif and the opening speed and mood) but, of course, “transformed”. The cello is still above the violin, but uses harmonics, and the violin is muted. This accelerates into a second fast section, using both the Jewish motive and its closely related cousin, the half-step whole-step motive, varied via the use of retrograde, of the opening. Within this second section, the tempo increases slightly to reach the tempo of the first fast section, but transformed to note values twice the speed (sixteenths instead of eighths). The color again changes from the first half of the section to this second half, this time via the addition of mutes for both instruments.
This transforms yet again into a version of the opening motif. This new section uses the exact same first two pitches of C# (stated here as a grace note) followed by D of the work’s beginning. This time, however, the mood is angry and the tempo almost halfway between the fast contrasting sections and the slower sections built on the opening. The anger dissipates and the music resolves. This final, calm section is reached by having the G#s (played col legno) in the cello – suspended by silence - becoming the pitch of the violin passage in the original tempo. The cello part states, one last time, the opening three pitches (C#, D, and, finally, E). This time the instruments revert to the expected order of the violin above the cello, both in a high range and both, via the use of harmonics towards the end of the passage, expressing a sense of resolution and peace. This idea of resolution is reinforced by the use of pitch. The C#, which opened the work by moving up a half step, now resolves down to C. This uses the idea of translation (in the archaic sense of the word) from life to death, from the frenzy of this world to peace.
It is hoped that this composition, meant as a living memorial, expresses the warmth and complexity that was the essence of Linda, as well as the ongoing love of and by her friends.