About this Recording
9.70204 - REALE, P.: Seven Deadly Sins / Violin Sonata, "Celtic Wedding" / Holiday Suite / Composers' Reminiscences (Mathaes, C. Valentine)

Paul Reale (b. 1943)
Works for Violin and Piano


American composer Paul Reale was born in 1943 in New Brunswick, New Jersey. He holds degrees from Columbia and the University of Pennsylvania, where he studied with George Rochberg and George Crumb. Between 1969 and 2004 he was Professor of Music at UCLA, and was awarded the Luckman Prize in 1995. Reale is the recipient of six awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Beeler Prize for wind ensemble composition, and commissions from the Jerome Foundation and the Ahmanson Organ Trust among others. His music is published by Carl Fischer Inc., Theodore Presser, Laurendale Associates, and Yelton Rhodes. Commercial CD’s are available from New Ariel Records, Cinnabar Records, Music & Arts CD’s, and Naxos.

Composer’s Notes

Seven Deadly Sins

The traditional vices as enumerated by Dante in Purgatorio of The Divine Comedy can really be thought about in two ways: they can either be considered mortal transgressions which corrupt the perfection of ideal human nature, or they can be thought of as extensions of nature that represent typical human extreme behaviour. In the Catholic Church of old, these transgressions would lead to eternal damnation and could only be forgiven by confession. However, everyone dips into these feelings from time to time.

In creating Seven Deadly Sins, I have drawn upon this dichotomy as well as external reactions to these altered emotional states. In the first piece, Anger, the music is cinematically descriptive of the chaotic abandon associated with rage, but also characteristic of the absence of logic. Greed, the second piece, conjures up the sleazy, seductive atmosphere of a rundown café or bordello, both repelling and inviting with a grasping desperation. Similarly, the succession of violin glissandos in Gluttony is an observation of the behaviour of a person who has become bloated from overeating. There is an oblique reference to the opening of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, which is not so much a knock at the door by fate as a leaning against it in woozy delirium. The passacaglia structure of Sloth has a lumbering, relentless forward motion that is both pointless and inevitable.

For the selection of the dramatic palette for the set, I try to remake the familiar into the alienated and vice versa. The ballad that begins Lust quickly takes on the vulgarity that a lustful display would evoke. The childish, Envy-eliciting taunting jingle (sol, sol, mi, la, sol, mi) becomes a contrapuntal cacophony, while the hapless Yankee Doodle that appears in Pride is turned into a vainglorious and quixotic buffoon, not entirely unsympathetic. The earlier faux Mozartian material in that movement transforms self-confidence into pomposity.

Seven Deadly Sins was written in 2009 for Jessica Mathaes as part of this recorded collection.

Composers’ Reminiscences

This version of Composers’ Reminiscences is a substantial recomposition of the original, completed in 2000. The suite for solo violin represents my impression of the styles of the referenced composers. The structures of the movements are a radical departure from anything these composers would do, and there is no consistent attempt to imitate any composer’s style. Details of phrase structure, motivic fragments, and composer-typical rhythmic gestures are used to summon up the personae of the composers, but the obvious elaborations lift the pieces out of the realm of mere style composition. Also, there are unifying motives, like the little alternating ostinatos, that appear in all movements.

Sonata for Violin and Piano, ‘Celtic Wedding’

The first draft of the Sonata for Violin and Piano, ‘Celtic Wedding’ was commissioned by Pacific Serenades and received its première in the spring of 1991 with Yukiko Kamei, violin soloist, accompanied by Ayke Agus. The work is one of a series of pieces, starting with the Sonata for Violoncello and Piano, inspired by Anglo-Celtic folk melodies, and continuing with various treatments of The Wexford Carol. Celtic Wedding uses the basic tune of a wedding song from Brittany, made popular by The Chieftains. It is cast in a five-movement form, much like the Cello Sonata, with a large slow movement as the keystone (Movement III). In this case there are two Entr’actes flanking that movement, and two outer sonata-like movements to complete the arch.

The wedding tune appears as a high, distant memory in the first movement and does not really emerge in its complete form at any time in the piece. Rather, it is the canvas on which the piece is ‘painted.’ There are also subsidiary materials that are transplanted between the movements, so that a total thematic unity is the result. The most striking example is the coda of the slow movement, a dead march, which reappears in the Finale with much more extended developmental treatment.

Tonality is used throughout the piece as an enlargement and extension of the possibilities of the old tune, much in the way that Baroque composers extended the tonal implications of Plainchant and Lutheran melodies, forming the basis of many chorales and chorale preludes. This newly recomposed version of the score, with extensive revisions and clarifications, was prepared in the fall of 2007 for publication. This recording by Jessica Mathaes and Colette Valentine is of the new version.

Holiday Suite

It is no coincidence that this disc ends with a piece that is firmly in the tradition of Gebrauchsmusik, pieces that eschew the pretensions of high-calorie concert music. It seems that much of contemporary art is larger-than-life image in its airs, such as paintings that take up a whole wall, and music that tries to shock rather then move the listener. Novelty, an often misspent attempt to ‘make a new sound,’ has taken the place of originality, an unfolding discovery in the process of composition. Each movement of Holiday Suite uses a familiar tune associated with Thanksgiving (We Gather Together), Christmas (In Dulci Jubilo), and New Years (Auld Lang Syne). Even the structure trades on familiarity, the Christmas movement weaving in J.S. Bach’s Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring and New Year’s summoning up the ghost of Dave Brubeck. This is good time music, melody driven, and devoid of pretension.

Paul Reale, April 2013

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