Premiered May 30, 2009 at Le Petit Trianon Theatre in San Jose, CA, by the Aurora Trio: Joseph Kneer, violin; Hannah Pressley, cello; and Linda Angkasa, piano. This work was commissioned by the Annual Reviews for their annual convention in the California bay area. It is cast in three movements, fast-slow-fast, and focuses on creating both brilliant and murky textures between the piano and the two string instruments. I have never seen the Aurora Borealis, but was inspired by seeing countless pictures and videos.
The first movement was written in 2006. It opens with the piano depressing a few keys silently, the effect of which is a ghostly resonance that follows each of the figures stated in the first minute of the movement. Through significant portions of the piece, the pianist is instructed to hold down the pedal without letting up, so that all the sound sustains. As the pianist plays more notes, the sound grows and fades organically.
The second movement is very slow and melodic. There are flashes of color and sudden shifts in harmony. At the end, the music fades away into the night.
The third movement is quick and energized. The piano sets the stage with a rapidly repeating ostinato figure, while the violin and cello play a lyrical line that becomes the basis of the rest of the movement. There is a slow, but broad middle section, marked by sweeping figures in the piano and harmonic effects in the strings. The fast music from the beginning returns, but is texturally inverted, with the violin playing an ostinato and the piano singing the melody. The ending is full of grandeur.
Duration: ca. 21'