A Year in the Catskills
Written for Woodwind Quintet by Peter Schickele (2008)
Published by Theodore Presser Co.
Includes score and parts
Duration: c. 22'
Flute, Oboe, Bb Clarinet, F Horn, and Bassoon
I. Spring: Fantasy
II. Summer: Imitations
III. Fall: Variations
IV. Winter: Lament
Although I played the clarinet as a boy, and the bassoon as a young man, I never played in a woodwind quintet, and I never wrote for that combination until I was in my seventies, when a commission from Vanderbilt University came my way.
The first movement, marked “Spring: Fantasy,” has a pastoral feeling to it, a vernal mood, but it also has many contrasting ideas, which suggested the term “fantasy.”
The second number in the seasonal cycle is subtitled “Imitations;” it features canonic writing, as in a round. In the last canon, the instruments begin the imitation only one beat apart, resulting in what might be described as a shifting cloud of sound.
Some years ago a group of composers including me was commissioned to write new variations on the theme from Bach's “Goldberg Variations;” this turned out to be a very fertile assignment which resulted in movements for at least three works, including the autumn section of this quintet.
I'm not a fan of snow and all that comes with it, so it's no surprise that the winter movement is a lament.
Having presented the four seasons, the quintet ends with a finale in the form of a peppy blues, the first twelve bars of which are laid out by the horn. Then comes the main theme, followed by three solo sections – for the flute, clarinet, and oboe – sections that are subsequently recapitulated simultaneuosly. What a mess! (But, one hopes, a glorious mess.) A spirited coda brings the piece ot a close.
My wife and I live for most of the year in Woodstock, New York; “A Year in the Catskills” was completed on December 11, 2008. It was premiered by the Blair Quintet at Vanderbilt University on March 16, 2009. The members of the quintet were Jane Kirchner, flute; Jared Hauser, oboe; Cassandra Lee, clarinet; Cynthia Estill, bassoon; and Leslie Norton, horn.
– Peter Schickele