The work owes its existence to the conductor Kurt Masur and his wife, Tomoko Masur. They invited me to compose a piece for two violas and orchestra. In other words, from the very outset I appreciated that the soloists would be two identical string instruments manifesting themselves through two female personas.
Under the circumstances it was entirely natural to choose a theme familiar from centuries of artistic experience, the theme of two types of love – of Mary and of Martha. It is a theme of two ways of loving: 1) to love taking upon oneself worldly cares and by so doing ensure the foundation of life, and 2) to love dedicating oneself to the sublime, to experience together with the Beloved the route of terrible suffering to the cross, so as to procure light and blessing for life.
Naturally music doesn’t convey these metaphysical stimuli to us literally and directly. That isn’t its job. It is, however, capable of creating a metaphor, a kind of comparison concealed from the concrete. For example, sounds moving in different directions, motion upwards or downwards, already can constitute a sufficiently definable metaphor of two differing psychological directions, two paths into the unknown forest of the perpetual variety of life.
In this composition the orchestra plays the role of the initiator; within it, a series of dramatic situations occur sometimes highly aggressive and savage. Each of these situations poses questions for the soloists that they must answer.
The process of formulating such answers provides the premise of the composition, dedicating its form. It presents itself as a chain of variations, during the course of which the relationship of the two solo personas – to each other and to the orchestra – changes.
I. In the first variation they answer the orchestra’s fortissimo with a contrasting pianissimo. Their impulses, moreover, are utterly transparent: motion upwards in Viola I, motion downwards in Viola II.
II. In the second variation, the original unambiguity is replaced by more complex relationships. It is more like a dialogue than an opposition.
III. In the third variation, the picture is further complicated by the inclusion of orchestral soloists in the dialogue between the two violas.
IV. In the fourth variations, the picture becomes even more complicated. However, this process leads once again to the original clarity: motion upwards in Viola I, and motion downwards in Viola II.
V. Fifth variation. In the orchestra there is static undulating motion, pianissimo; the soloist are maximally expressivo: they make attempts to meet at the center of the diapason, but they manage only to continue their paths – one proceeding upwards from below, the other downwards from above – passing each other crosswise.
VI. This sets in motion the stasis in the orchestra: two opposing layers in the high and low registers beginning to move towards each other, each reaching its extreme limit. Simultaneously with this crossing, which takes place in a slow tempo, a dynamic, motoic episode begins (crescendo from pianissimo to fortissimo leading to the main climax, an orchestral totti.
VII. The seventh variation. This is a sort of conclusion, a summing-up of the quests: Viola I gradually reaches the extremes of its highest register; with an ostinato Viola II reaffirms its very lowest register