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Secret Alchemy (2012)

for violin, viola, cello, and piano

Listen to excerpts:

Secret Alchemy, Mov't I. - excerpt
Secret Alchemy, Mov't II. - excerpt
Secret Alchemy, Mov't III. - excerpt
Secret Alchemy, Mov't IV. - excerpt

Instrumentation:  violin, viola, cello, and piano.


I. Mystical

II. Agitated, relentless

III. Timeless, mysterious, reverberant

IV. With great energy


Duration: 17 minutes

World Premiere:  Commissioned by the Arizona Friends of Chamber Music.


Program Notes:

With any new composition, there is a sense of discovery and mystery during the creative process. Though this piece is not programmatic, imagining the air of secrecy and mysticism surrounding a medieval alchemist at work provided a starting point for the piece. The first movement begins with this sense of mystery. String harmonics are used to create the rhythmic backdrop for melodic lines played by the cello and later, the viola. The second movement is a relentless scherzo characterized by pizzicato strings, turbulent piano writing, and quickly alternating rhythmic patterns. The third movement is influenced by medieval music with its use of open 5ths, chant-like lines played non-vibrato by the strings, and reverberant piano harmonies, simulating the sound and reverberation in a large cathedral. The fourth movement concludes the work with an energetic music characterized by strings playing fast measured tremolo figures (rapid movement of the bow back and forth on the string). These alternate with the piano’s massive chords and occasional rapid melodic figures, along with muted tones emanating from inside the piano.


-- Pierre Jalbert

© 2016 Pierre Jalbert, Secret Alchemy

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