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Sergio Bernal

Sonances, for string orchestra

Sonances, for string orchestra

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Sonances for strings is based on folk dances from South America. Its music is motivated by the joyous feeling experienced by musicians when they gather to improvise. I made up the word Sonances figuring that the title "Consonances (or Dissonances) for strings" would have seemed too academic. Just as one might call a folk violinist a fiddler or a folk harpist a harper, a plain, unprefixed sonances puts the music in a popular context and suggests that the experience is more about sounding (or sonancing) the music than it is about analyzing its sound.

This is not to say that Sonances for strings is purely folk music. In fact, I believe the piece reveals my immense fascination with compositional craft and my awe towards the work of the great masters. Still, it aims at staying fresh and spontaneous with simple and direct ideas, much in keeping with folk spirit.

Each of the three movements of the piece is organized in a symmetrical pattern, with a central section containing the more adventurous, modernistic music, and the outer ones overtly presenting folk-inspired themes. Solos by the principal players enrich the fabric with concertante and chamber music sonorities.

The first movement (Juegos/Games) is freely based on "Satisfacción" ("Satisfaction"), a choro by Pablo Camacaro. The music is playful, acting as a toccata suggestive of Bach's highly imitative contrapuntal style. The second movement (Canto/Song) is a slow, melancholic waltz that subtly aludes to music by Ginastera and Stravinsky under the veil of sensuous bossa nova harmonies. The last movement (Fiesta/Gathering) is an animated rondo with Venezuelan merengue themes (traditionally in a fast, irregular beat) framing a central, strangely distant interlude and a violin cadenza. Haydnesque transitions and Bart6k-like gestures add to the music's raw vigor.

Charged with exciting rhythms and attractive colors, Sonances for strings showcases the strengths of advanced student and professional string orchestras. It makes a good concert opener of a full symphonic program.

-Sergio Bernal

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