Portraits for Piccolo and Piano (1997) by Robert Cronin
Movements: Affettuoso; Allegro vigoroso
Portraits is formally structured in two movements. The opening movement is in classic ABA form, where the opening slow music returns again near the end of the work, framing the inner section. This opening slow music is characterized by a lyrical mood and highlighted by snappy grace notes. The mood changes as the music elides into the center section of the work. Here the music is more lively and raucous. After a short cadenza, the music transforms into a tango (which works surprisingly well on the piccolo). The tango, in turn, brings us back to the opening slow music. It is now highly ornamented both in the piccolo and piano parts, but retains its lyrical quality. From here, the movement ends quietly.
The second movement is quite another story. It is fast from beginning to end, resting only briefly. This is not movement that a player can just pick-up and play at sight, but he/she is hopefully well rewarded if they were to do so. The meter, with the exception of a few spots, is constantly shifting. This however is not as complicated as it would seem, in that the melodies are recognizable and jazzy in their orientation. The opening few bars state the main theme. It reoccurs throughout the movement in various forms, alternating with contrasting music. In that sense, the movement is a kind of rondo, but in a strict sense. The theme’s biggest contrast is the poetic theme that occurs about two-thirds of the way through the movement. After another presentation of the theme, the music accelerates into a coda. Here the music is even faster and higher than before. The movement climaxes on the very final notes of the work, as the piccolo player rises up to the very highest notes of the instrument.