Todestanzen was composed between July and October 1992 for the Canadian
violist Peter Pas, who, with percussionist Bruce Hamilton, premiered it in March 1993 at Indiana
University. The work is in three movements which explore both the dark lyricism traditionally
associated with the viola and an outright virtuosity not often found in much of its repertoire. The
percussion does not play a secondary role but has its own musical profile and is as soloistic and
virtuosic as the viola.
The first movement is quiet and evocative, the viola carrying a long, expressive line while the
percussion provides an almost ritualistic background. The second movement is again quiet but is
a rapid scherzo, combining both perpetual motion and dance-like elements. The third movement
is the most virtuosic of the three, juxtaposing music which is free and almost improvisatory with
that which is traditionally controlled, driving the work to its final climax.
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