Russian Tableaux, by Lydia Kakabadse
Contemporary Composition for Violin, Viola, Cello and Double Bass
Score and Parts, PDF $18.99
Please see the "Our Composers" section of the website to learn more about highly-acclaimed British composer Lydia Kakabadse, whom we were delighted to welcome as a new contributor to NSM's catalog in September 2017, with publication of her piece Russian Tableaux. Russian Tableaux is featured on The Phantom Listeners CD (Naxos 8.572524); visit the composer's website to listen to audio samples.
Here are the composer's program notes for this beautiful work, which was written in memory of her father:
Russian Tableaux, which was completed in September 2009 for string quartet (violin, viola, cello, double bass), displays such distinctive Russian traits as rich melody and texture, an abundance of colour, low register strings and strong bass.
1st movement – Mother Volga
The river Volga, which has held much importance in Russian life, is known as the mother of Russian civilization and came to be called "Mother Volga". Accompanied by the double bass, the piece opens with the cello, followed in turn by the viola and then the violin, each representing a tributary that flows into the river. The river gathers momentum as the cello announces the main theme, which is taken up by the upper strings against pizzicato double bass. The viola attempts to steer a steady course against the meandering strings and, following a variation of the main theme, brings the piece to an end with arpeggio like runs.
2nd movement – 1917
Depicting the aftermath of the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the ensuing misery and sense of desolation, this movement opens with the cello playing the main theme grave con dolore, accompanied by the double bass. This theme is then taken up by the violin and later by the viola in their lower register. Despite an increase in tempo, where the violin plays a variation of the theme, the feeling of despair cannot be shaken off. This is characterized by the melancholy tone reflected in the continual use of the minor key, the repetition of the same notes and a return to the opening theme.
3rd movement – Dance of the Matryoshka Dolls
Also known as a Russian doll, the matryoshka is a hollow wooden doll containing a number of smaller dolls. The dance starts fast and lively and the first theme announced by the violin, characterizes the dainty dancing of the smaller dolls. In contrast, the 2nd theme when played by the double bass at a far slower tempo characterizes the heavy plodding movements of the larger dolls. The tempo reverts back to the original allegro where the first theme is now played by the viola followed by frequent interplay between the strings, bringing the dance to a fast and furious close.
—Lydia Kakabadse, September 2017
Here's what Sarah-Jane Bradley, one of the UK's top violists, has written about Russian Tableaux, a piece she has performed a number of times both in concert and for recording: "Russian Tableaux is a magical depiction of scenes of life in Russia, infused with nostalgic folksong-like melodies and the Eastern flavour of harmonic minor tonality. Lydia Kakabadse makes excellent and highly effective use of the unusual quartet combination, featuring the rich, dark sonority of the double bass as well as virtuoso writing for all four instruments in the final Dance of the Matryoshka Dolls. Well worth exploring - a joy for performers and listeners alike."
And from award-winning violinist Sara Trickey, who also has performed Russian Tableaux many times: "Russian Tableaux draws you into a unique sound world from the first moment you hear its unusual deep and dark sonorities. The music has a compelling and hypnotic quality at times which then is contrasted with highly energized passages, evocative of Russian dance. Lydia Kakabadse's use of the double bass in this quartet affects the overall sound considerably and infuses her work with a tone of melancholy and nostalgia. The work is also rewarding to play and has a unique stamp on it which makes it feel highly original and eminently worth exploring."
Score, 24 pages; Parts for Violin, Viola, Cello and Double Bass, 6 pages each; Total, 58 pages.