for flute (alto flute) and harp, ad libitum with violin and cello (or violin and viola)
This work is available from Boosey & Hawkes for the world.
Beate-Gabriela Schmitt, flute / Ursula Holliger, harp / Akiko Tatsumi, violin / Walter Grimmer, cello
The title Novellette refers to a short narrative with content that may be freely associated. The individualized specification of the instrumentation points to the different weighting of the sound layers: the flute part is the protagonist, the harp belongs to it in its role as obbligato accompaniment, and the strings form a tone-colour backdrop.
The Novellette exhibits a strictly symmetrical design of three, two, or even five parts, depending on the interpretive reading. Like rugged mountains, two extended formal blocks – the first assigned to the alto flute, the second to the full-size flute – frame the plain of the slow middle part (also still with the alto flute). An introduction (19 bars: full-size flute) and an epilogue (20 bars) round out this form (a A c B b).
The nineteen measures of the introduction expound in a single sequence intensified dynamically to the extreme a decisive trait of the work as a whole as well of some of its parts: the principle of constantly increasing intensification seems in large part to determine the dramaturgy. The lavish ornamentation in the manner of Debussy in the flute part is also unusual here. The long-drawn-out held notes at the phrase ends are covered over by the tender intonation in flageolet and the promptly beginning harp gesturing.
The first main part (alto flute) is in itself of three-part design. Long-drawn-out notes on several pitch levels are initially expounded. The pitch attained is then consolidated and expanded in the flute with approaches (as well as sub-beats) to the long-held-out tone, while the harp part clearly gains more independence. A faster meter, heavy accents in the alto flute, and broad interval leaps in both directions finally bring about general animation (with the strings too awakening to greater activity and independence) as well as expansion and extension of the pitch space.
The relatively static slow middle section functions as a quiet island in which the tone formation of the flute begins from a single main tone. Here the sound formation of all the instruments undergoes alienation: the flutist produces microtonal glissandi and flageolet sounds as well as tone-colour changes on one and the same tone; the harpist brings forth glissandi by manipulating the string with the tuning key; the strings execute glissandi con sordino in double flageolet. An increase in motion and densification occurs in the second part of this intermezzo, with the strings also for the first time engaging in dialogue with each other.
The second main part (full-size flute) represents a single grand process of intensification. Here only one solo measure of the harp each time serves to structure the course of musical events. The transition to the immobility of the epilogue occurs abruptly: Yun first slackens the tempo, then he lessens the dynamics, and finally he reduces the motion and limits his material to circulation around a single tone. As in a mosaic, the flute occasionally draws on individual motifs from the various parts of the composition.
Walter-Wolfgang Sparrer (2000, translated by Susan Marie Praeder)