RTC-67: 1987 Vestiges for piano

Length: 8 min.
Completed: 21 October 1987, The MacDowell Colony, Peterborough, New Hampshire.
Premiere: 1989-02-13, Dolores Keahey, Canada House, London, England

  • 1991-10-20, David Burge, piano, Eva Clare Hall, U of Manitoba
  • 1997-01-29, Shirley Sawatzky, New Music Festival, Winnipeg
  • 2003-12-03, Winnifred Scott Wood, Victoria Conservatory of Music

Publication: Manitoba Composers Association, 1990

  • 1) Shirley Sawatzky, NAM NMM 003 (1997)
  • 2) Shirley Sawatzky (1998) on Robert Turner, Solo Works for Harp, Organ & Piano (2010)

Vestiges – “traces left by something vanished or lost.” The three epigrammatic pieces making up Vestiges are an attempt to reflect this definition through a sequence of original musical ideas in a conservative and eclectic contemporaneous idiom. The tonal centres of the three pieces are B, A, and A-flat, respectively.

The first piece is slow and somewhat melancholy. A right-hand melody with triplet accompaniment is heard against a descending whole-tone scale in the left hand. A more sonorous middle section rises to a climax, bringing a return of the first section but with the hands reversed.

The second is a fast “Danse Macabre.” Loud, marked chords using all twelve tones introduce a facetious theme in polka rhythm. This is repeated following a contrasting jazzy bit, and ends with a forceful coda.

The third piece begins with a slow, expressive melody over a series of rolled chords. This is repeated with the melody varied in eighths. The eighth-note movement slides into sixteenths softly in both hands, three octaves apart through all twelve keys “una corda” throughout, suggesting a sudden ghostly breeze. The opening section returns in reverse order and finally fades away to nothing.

The whole work employs a number of keyboard and pedal techniques to effectively project its themes and moods.