Fred Lerdahl

The Music and Writings of Composer Fred Lerdahl

Program note for Duo for violin and piano


The Duo for Violin and Piano (2005) was commissioned by the McKim Fund and is dedicated to the violinist Rolf Schulte, who premiered the work with pianist James Winn at the Library of Congress in 2005. The Duo has two movements and lasts about 19 minutes.

The Duo is in two contrasting parts that share underlying motivic, harmonic, and gestural patterns. The first movement, after quiet introductory piano chords, is fast and aggressive. Its form employs a spiral technique in which an idea expands and becomes more complex with each cycle. Here process reverses about three-fifths of the way through, collapsing the music back to its starting point. At the same time, the material continues to proliferate while the form compresses, creating an explosive climax. The longer, more contemplative second movement is in binary form: ABC/A’B’C’. This movement has an elegiac, passionate, and at times dirge-like expression that arose unbidden in response to the sudden deaths of two close friends and a student within the preceding two years.

Fred Lerdah


all materials copyright Fred Lerdahl 2009