The first three of these Vinaigrettes were written in July of 2003, just after I had finished a string of serious (and I might say long-winded) pieces. Having played in a woodwind quintet for several years, I am all too familiar with not only the “standards”—from pieces by Reicha up to Harbison, but I sense that I have an understanding of the special strengths and weakness of the ensemble. In most cases I ignored both of these facts while writing this piece.
The resulting four short movements tend to address (or exploit) the most difficult aspects of playing in this particular group, intonation and unity of articulation. The first movement is basically a highly embellished unison throughout, and the crisp and pungent second movement is full of tricky unison articulations, among other things. The players can finally relax a little in the third movement, where, as throughout the piece, I explore (as well as I am able) my favorite thing about playing in and writing for this group—the five radically different sounds and personalities of the five radically different instruments involved. Honey Dijon, composed in May of 2005, pays tribute to Jean Francaix, composer of music that’s difficult to perform, yet never ceases to sound delightfully easy.
The titles are, of course, referring to the ever-trendy and ever more-popular salad dressings. Whatever connection between the music and dressings any listener would like to make is up to him or her. I won’t say anything more, but the one ingredient in all four is vinegar. I needed to write something light—or should I say “lite”.
— Sean Shepherd
This program note may be reproduced free of charge in concert programs with a credit to the composer.