Tuscan Triptych is a reworking for string orchestra of the String Quartet I completed in 1985. Somewhat later, in preparing program notes for the Lydian String Quartet's performances, I made the following comments:
"The String Quartet was conceived in the hills of Tuscany during the winter and spring of 1984-85. I would be hard pressed to find some connection between the serene, orderly landscape of our physical surrounding and the restless moodiness of this music. Perhaps the influence of external calm encouraged me to explore inner states of anxiety and introspective disorder. In any case, the composition appears to project an atmosphere far removed from the harmonious surface of pastoral Italy.
"The music divides into three movements. The first, relatively short, is a succession of episodes, somewhat angular in character, dissolving into a quiet coda. The second movement, more interlude than self-contained organism, begins quietly elegiac but concludes with an elusive and very brief scherzo. The last movement is Substantially longer than the others and proceeds through a more varied array of experiences. The lengthy stretch of sustained lyricism which concludes the movement is the expressive heart of the entire Quartet. Here all the preceding shapes are synthesized, clarified, and transmuted to produce a more direct, more resolved mode of speech."
As I relived the materials of the String Quartet, I began to search for a title which might reflect the enlarged sonic resonance of the piece. The notion of a triptych reflecting the three movements occurred to me, along with visual images which vaguely connected with Hannibal's legendary invasion of Italy in the third century BC and its tragic consequences. Hannibal crossed the Alps with men, horses and elephants and proceeded south toward Rome, his hated enemy. The route led through the valley of the Chiana, past Arezzo, Cortona and Lake Trasimeno. And it was there, in 217 BC, at the shores of Trasimeno that Hannibal utterly destroyed a great army of the Roman empire. The ancient farmhouse we were living in during 1984-85 overlooked a great stretch of the Chiana. Directly across the valley loomed the menacing Etruscan town of Cortona and in the distance, to the southeast, shimmered the waters of Lake Trasimeno. Could echoes of those momentous, tragic events be heard more than 2000 years later? The Italians have devised an epigram for such speculations: Se non e vero, e ben trovato. ("If it's not true, it's well invented!")
-- Yehudi Wyner