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About this Piece

Composed: 1985

Duration: 21 minutes

Instrumentation: 2 trumpets, 2 trombones, 2 horns, amplified harpsichord, 2 violins, 2 cellos, 2 double basses

First performance: February 12, 1985, Symphony Space, New York City

The Group for Contemporary Music, Harvey Sollberger, conducting

Commissioned by The Group for Contemporary Music and the Lontano Ensemble of London, Odaline de la Martinez, director

First Los Angeles Philharmonic New Music Group performance: April 1, 1985, Lucky Mosko conducting

Mistral grew out of an encounter with its numbing namesake in the south of France in December of 1982. The relentless, wind-tunnel chill of this memorable wind became the reference, the "impetus" at the core of a work for pairs of trumpets, horns, trombones, violins, celli, and contrabasses with the mediation of an amplified harpsichord. The basic materials comprise a collection of eight self-contained musical segments, the briefest of which is only a few seconds in length while the longest is over 4 minutes. Both the brass and the string choirs have an outward (assertive unanimous, blustery) and an inward (reflective, individualistic, quiet) behavior. The longest section, gentle and for strings, opens the work, and after several minutes, the brass make their entrance, also with an extended passage in the inner-directed mode. The harpsichord follows, taking the first of its turns as an agent for the strings or the brass when they are otherwise occupied. Its crystalline articulateness is useful in spelling the sustained chorus of winds and strings, providing a sonic counterpart to the clarity of the sky which episodes of the mistral leave behind.

It was evidently impractical to devise a piece in which the unrelenting nature of this impetus was literally mirrored. I chose instead to use a series of gradually expanding outbursts of fiercely intense music. This episodic succession of assaults upon the energies of the performers begins about 7 minutes into the work and continues to the end. In fact, the work closes with an outer-directed, "incandescent line."

Each component of music makes use of a characteristic combination of four wind-derived musical behaviors: ripples, flutters, swaying, and bending. These will, I hope, be evident to the listener. Although Mistral is indebted, as I have written, to my experience in Southern France, it is neither illustrative nor programmatic. Music ends, one trusts, by being nothing less than that... however it begins.

Mistral was premièred by The Group for Contemporary Music, Harvey Sollberger, conductor, at Symphony Space in New York on February 12, 1985. It was commissioned by The Group for Contemporary Music and the Lontano Ensemble of London, Odaline de la Martinez, director.

- R. Reynolds