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"Wintergale" for Solo Violin

Programme Note:

“Wintergale” is a piece inspired by the solo violin music of composers Ernest Bloch and John Corigliano—particularly Bloch’s “Suite No. 1” and Corigliano’s “The Red Violin Caprices”. An immense thank you belongs to Kimberly Durflinger, the violinist who helped me to revise the fingerings and notational presentation of this piece. And an immense thank you to Peter Frajola, associate concertmaster of the Oregon Symphony, a good friend, and commissioner of “Wintergale” for Solo Violin.


While watching the terrible 2020 wildfires throughout my home state of Oregon, I composed “Wintergale,” a suite for Solo Violin. While writing this music, I reflected on the challenges facing wildlife during the coming winter. And also, I mourned those animals and plants that perished in the flames.


The Theme of “Wintergale” imagines the bleakness of the heat-scorched forest during winter. The violin’s voice calls pleadingly, a mother bird desperately searching for her young chicklet. She calls and calls, but she cannot find him. Eventually, she has to part. At the end, her chicklet can be heard calling for her.

Variation 1 represents the adolescent chicklet’s search for his mother in the surrounding area, calling and weeping and plucking away branches to find her. It is visceral—using a wide variety of timbral techniques inspired by the music of Andrew Norman—to convey the search for home.


Variation 2 features an encounter between the adolescent chicklet and a warm, open, similar family of birds. Camaraderie blooms in their allegretto dance, despite the looming scent of ashes and burnt pine bark enveloping the forest.


Variation 3 allows the adolescent bird to develop a mature, well-rounded song—finally loud enough to reach the ears of his mother. At last, her mother echoes her son’s theme at the end of the piece—they find one another. Harmonic pressure tones represent her voice at the close.


Finally, Variation 4 represents the birds’ quick flight to their new home, dodging a fraught wilderness landscape along the way. Reunited, the two families of birds dance together joyously, saddened by their scorched home but content to rebuild their lives with one another in a new forest just over the horizon.        

Performance History:

Peter Frajola, Oregon Symphony

  • Date: November 2020

  • Location: Falcon Recording Studios

  • Performer: Peter Frajola

  • Engineers: Dennis Carter

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