In the first movement of Traces, above a distant and mysterious undulating pattern, brief, distorted, and shrouded fragments of the following four movements float by fleetingly. Each fragment is signaled by the entrance of the solo harp. This movement, then, looks towards the future, anticipates what will unfold before our ears in the next twenty or so minutes. The last movement traces time in the opposite direction, towards the past and not just the recent past, but a whole lineage of musical gestures, with fragments, mostly of simple cadential formulas ranging from the 16th through 19th centuries, making brief, ephemeral appearances. There has probably never been a piece of music written that doesn't owe its form and content largely to its predecessors, the difference here is simply that this lineage is being celebrated, albeit in a fragmented way, not unlike how we might admire some Classical ruins, not just because it's architecture is pleasing, but also because it is ruined. The concerto is in five movements, with the middle three resembling the standard fast-slow-fast structure of classical concerto form. In almost all instances the harp leads the way, while the orchestra follows. In the second movement, the harp's syncopated staccato chords act as the impetus of almost all the material that follows. In the third movement, much of the orchestra's material is just the resonance of the harp's embellished cantabile line. In the fourth movement the harp's glissandos usher in and out much of the surrounding material.
A concerto, almost by definition, creates a dynamic of competition or dialogue between the soloist and the orchestra, between the one and the many. Here, while the harp might not be able to overpower the entire orchestra, it can still always lead the way. Traces was written for harpist Marie-Pierre Langlamet and the Berlin Philharmonic.
— Sebastian Currier
This program note may be reproduced free of charge in concert programs with a credit to the composer.