The 21-page piano duet “Amaranthinesque” begins with the primo repeating 90 high E’s (i.e. 7 bars of a set of 4 triplets of the single high E note in the right hand) before descending to the first rehearsal mark shown below. The left hand also begins pianissimo but in a single minor third and gradually breaks into a two-voice melody taken over by the secundo in bar 10.
This opening of repeated notes gives it a constancy and persistence, like something that won’t go away yet preludes something else to come. The composer, Colorado-based Chip Michael, writes, “I rather think that’s what music should be, enjoyable to play – particularly this piece. Fun, yet challenging.”
I was intrigued by this piece but also realised that the page turns might be problematic without a third person at our disposal. Chip Michael had already specified the need for a page turner in his first e-mail to me. Luckly Brendan Kinsella, who sightread and recorded the duet with me, knew the trick to turning pages and playing at the same time. He gently folded the loose sheets vertically in half. Playing the secundo part allowed him to multi-task as page turner.
Due to the sheer length of this work, we were not able to record it in its entirety for this blog post. Click below to get an idea of this duet.
When I later played the secundo part, it felt like a different piece. I daresay that the part you choose in a duet very much determines the experience you have. I would suggest players switch parts just for the fun of it — and for variety’s sake.
The duet develops with repetitive triplets appearing in different places — an overarching theme of persistence, constancy, and permanence. 155 bars and many voices later, it slows down to a majestic B minor chord.
Chip Michael also sent several solo piano pieces I’m eager to try out — just as soon as I clear my backlog of duets from my Call for Scores project to review.
Chip Michael’s programme notes:
Amaranthus, collectively known as amaranth, is a cosmopolitan genus of herbs particularly easy to grow and considered a symbol of indigenous culture. Rich in protein, amaranth is a great source of nutrition avoiding the gluten issues of wheat. It also grows in a broad variety of climates making it an ideal crop.
However, European interests and American corporate farming has made global harvesting and distribution of amaranth fiscally undesirable. This piece takes its attitude from the plant, constant, perpetual, everlasting.