The Bitter, Sour, Salt Suite
About this work:
These pieces were commissioned by Itzhak Perlman, who plans to record the suite in its entirety. "Itzhak asked me for something that he
could narrate and play. The writing took approximately two months to get all done. Once I got excited about the project, some times I wrote as many as three pieces in one night," Adolphe says. (He wrote 14 and deleted five of them.) In performance Perlman will recite Louise Gikow's short, humorous poems about the food in question,
following each poem with Adolphe's musical take.
Writing the pieces for solo violin, Adolphe says, "was a bit like line drawing. If you're used to doing oil paintings or sculptures, doing a line drawing is fun. It was fun. Writing for Itzhak, of
course, influenced the whole project, not only because you can't write anything that's too difficult for him, but also because he has
a wonderful sense of humor. It was almost like writing a theater piece." Coming up with the titles--and hence the subject matter of each piece--was not all Adolphe's doing. Sometimes, he says, the
music came first, sometimes the words. In the case of one piece, he says, "I wrote something for solo violin and wanted to include it,
but wasn't sure what kind of food it could be about. So I gave it to Louise, and she said "brandy," and I agreed, so it became "brandy." But then when we gave it to Itzhak and he played it, he said
"chocolate cake," and I suppose there is that similarity of richness. Itzhak loves dessert. so he thought "chocolate cake." Louise was thinking "brandy." He doesn't like brandy. He likes Chateau d'Yquem."
The listener will be most struck by recurring patterns. Adolphe said
the compositional technique resembles a mosaic in that in many of the pieces, patterns are juxtaposed and repeated, much as the patterns of tiles in a mosaic recur. The best example of this is in the piece called "Mixed Nuts." Here, Adolphe's intent was to recreate a purely visual image of a large jar filled with mixed nuts of different shapes and colors and the patterns they held in the jar. "Tomatoes" is a dialogue between two moods and dynamics. Is the tomato a fruit or a vegetable? The listener will hear bubbles in "Champagne," and
perhaps even a cork or two popping. "Butter" is based on a slippery improvisation of Perlman's own devising.
By now, the reader surely has gotten the idea that these pieces are meant to be fun. Even so Adolphe did not shrink from making Perlman work a little. Take the piece called "Hot Chili Peppers." Adolphe
wrote it to be hard, and then was astonished when Perlman, playing through the piece at sight and talking about this or that nuance all the while, got through it with what seemed like ease. "He didn't miss a note!" Adolphe says. "I said to him, you know, this piece is really hard. And he said to me, 'I know, I know. It is hard, it is. Don't
worry, when I play it in concert, it'll sound hard.'" Which only goes to warn audience members: If Perlman seems to be sweating a bit up there on stage, don't believe it.
Year composed: 2000
Ensemble type: Solo instrument, non-keyboard:Violin
Instrumentation: 1 Narrator