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"Chaconne in A" by Deborah Kilmer


Princeton University Chapel
Photograph by "xarisk"

        Esteemed organist Eric Plutz will be playing Deborah Kilmer's Chaconne in A in his recital, Abundant Americana.
 
        Deborah says: "Eric's recitals are always both exciting and satisfying, and that organ is legendary. Eric commissioned
Chaconne in A about a year ago."
 
Concert:
Abundant Americana
Date: November 18
Time: 8:00 - 9:30 PM
Place: Princeton University Chapel
Near the intersection of Washington Road and Nassau Street, Princeton, NJ
 
        Eric Plutz says: All are invited to attend my concert,
Abundant Americana. The performance will contain a cross section of the fertile creativity found among American composers, from the mid-19th Century up through a World Premiere by Deborah Kilmer, and in a wide variety of styles. Please plan to attend!
 
The Program:
     
Comes Autumn Time by Leo Sowerby
     
Chaconne (World Premiere) by Deborah Kilmer
     
Variations on an American Air by Isaac Van Vleck Flagler
     
Elegy by William Grant Still
     
Revelations of St. John the Divine by Larry King
     
Litany for Organ by Joel Martinson
     
Passacaglia by David Hurd
     
O Beautiful for Spacious Skies by Emma Lou Diemer
     
Concertino (complete) by Douglas Major

Deborah Kilmer's notes for Chaconne in A
        This piece is a Chaconne in the Baroque sense: a musical composition typically consisting of variations on a repeated bass theme.
 
        Perhaps the most well known example of variations on a repeated bass theme is Pachelbel's Canon.
Chaconne in A, like Pachelbel's Canon, begins with an unaccompanied tune played on very low notes. This tune is the basis for the entire piece, which, in the case of my Chaconne, consists of the original statement of the tune, or theme, followed by 11 repetitions of the tune. These "variations" may differ simply through the addition of an accompanying melody or some added embellishments. I have taken liberties with the chaconne form, often moving the theme from the lowest voice to an upper voice, and making more substantial alterations such as changes in meter (from five beats per measure to six beats per measure, for example) or mode (minor to major in this case), or borrowing techniques from the Renaissance or the Twentieth Century.
 
        For the composer, the Chaconne is a game, and for the performer it's a puzzle. I'm giving you the clues for the puzzle in the description below, but if you're not into puzzles, you can simply enjoy listening to the changing colors, from dark and somber to bright and lively, and the changing moods, from melancholic to playful to triumphant.
 
        The Program notes for
Abundant Americana include a guide to the twelve repetitions of the theme of Chaconne in A.
 
    1. The piece begins with a statement of the theme.
    2. A new melody, or counter-melody is added above the theme.
    3. The second counter-melody is added.
    4. The second counter-melody moves to the alto voice, and a third counter-melody is introduced in the soprano voice.
    5. A variation of the ground bass melody is used in the soprano voice, and the meter changes from 5/4 to 7/8 time. The contrapuntal style of the previous variations is replaced by a homophonic, or chordal style. Here I am using concertante technique: contrasting sections of trumpets and reeds, loud and soft.
    6. The theme moves back to the lowest voice. The third counter-melody is heard in the soprano voice. Alto and tenor lines add more modern harmonies.
    7. The theme is used in the soprano voice. Most of the theme is also used in the bass, in long notes. The alto voice is improvisatory in character.
    8. The theme remains in the soprano voice.
    9. The theme moves to the alto voice in this variation, transitioning from minor to major.
   10. In this variation, the theme is heard in the soprano voice, this time in a courtly 6/8 meter.
   11. The theme returns to the bass, with the other three voices entering at staggered intervals. The second and third voices imitate the first, rhythmically and in articulation, but not melodically. The fourth voice is independent.
   12. The theme occurs in long notes in the alto voice, this time in the pedals, with the bass and soprano voices providing embellishment. The Chaconne is rounded out with a cadenza, or concluding passage.

 
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