Two Movements for Harpsichord

Two Movements for Harpsichord was commissioned for Barbara Harbach, who performed its world premiere on March 20, 1989, in Buffalo, New York.

The plaintive opening movement (Andante) presents a mordent-initiated principal theme which is answered by a rising figure echoed on the lute stop. The rising answer soon assumes equal thematic importance, as it becomes the principal melodic idea of the second section of the piece. The music of the opening returns, leading this time to a different tonal level and to an expansion of what was in the exposition a fleeting allusion to a waltz rhythm. The codetta gives one final look at the opening material, with the mordent figure bringing the movement to a close.

The vigorous last movement (Allegro) is characterized by irregular rhythms and sweeping punctuating chords answered by swirling scale-like figures. Repeated left-hand chords and steady use of rapid running notes in the right hand create a motoric effect. After repeating its opening section, the work leads to a second section (Poco meno mosso) which intones a modal theme with an accompaniment built from the rising lute figure of the first movement. This theme is soon joined by a canonic partner a fourth below. Two variations of this theme appear, the last of which is sung over a transposed B-A-C-H figure in the left hand. There follows a recapitulation, in which both themes are repeated and reworked. An extended coda, built from the opening flourish, leads to a dramatic fantasia-like codetta. The exposition of this work, incidentally, is fashioned so that its major structural accents spell out a transposed version (a perfect fourth higher) of the name of Miss Harbach.

Program Notes by Samuel Jones