1524 Virko Baley - Parables & Reflections
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1524 Virko Baley - Parables & Reflections

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    TNC CD 1524

Virko Baley's Parables & Reflections

Treny-Laments II

The Polish poet Jan Kochanowski (1530-84) was one of the greatest the Slavic letters produced up to the 19th century.

All is in vain! We play at blindman's buff
Until hard edges break into our path.
Man's life is error. Where, then, is relief?
In shedding tears or wrestling down my grief?
Tren-Lament 1

Kochanowski wrote his Treny (Laments) as a way of coming to terms with the grief caused by the death of his young daughter. In the poems he treats the tragic event as if the girl had reached different stages of childhood, when in reality she died in infancy. I found the poetry of Jan Kochanowski very moving, and began to use various parts as a foundation for musical lines. When I began to write this work, originally only for contrabassoon (Treny-Laments I for contrabassoon was completed in summer of 1996), I simultaneously expanded it into a work for violoncello and, soon after, for bassoon. By August 14, 1996 three versions existed: Treny-Laments I for contra-bassoon, Treny-Laments II for bassoon, and Treny III for violoncello each one progressively longer. During that same summer my mother died on July 20, and two additional friends, close to my heart also died, Larysa Bondarenko, Valentin Silvestrov's wife, and Bruce Adams, my oldest friend in Las Vegas. Treny-Laments are dedicated to their memory. By the time the three versions were finished, the concept of Treny in four parts (I-IV) for 2 violoncelli and soprano (in part IV), lasting over an hour was completely worked out, but was only completed in 2002. The first performance of Treny-Laments II was given by bassoonist Janis McKay at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

"...a trois"

"...a trois" is a fragment. In 1968 the Ukrainian composer Boris Lyatoshynsky died. I wanted to write a small piece to honor him and at the same time honor one of his pupils and my dear friend, Valentin Silvestrov, who turned 60 in 1997, the year this piece was written. "...a trois" is the result. At the same time I was working on my Symphony No. 1, Sacred Monuments, and the fourth movement was to be a musical portrait of Lyatoshynsky. "...a trois" became a study for that movement, an independent piece that was also soon to be integrated into the much larger symphonic structure. "...a trois" begins near the end of some imaginary piece, perhaps a trio sonata, and most likely a very dramatic and turbulent one that has been going on for some time. We only catch a fragment of it the final 8 minutes. What we hear is the last reflection on a work that no longer exists and is not capable of being completely deciphered. This is the domain of the coda a specialty of Valentin Silvestrov. The melodic material is made up of melismas that I now love and whose stylistic and emotional content seem to share with those of certain traits of Lyatoshynsky: a certain nostalgia for unrealized events, imagined journeys and wishes grounded in both tonal longings and sequences. The little motive that the piano reiterates throughout the piece many times, beginning with measure 6, acts as a Proustian madeleine, triggering a chain of associations. At the very end, the oboe and bassoon play a melody that I composed when I was 13 years old, the only fragment left of a terribly inept beginning of trying to write a symphony (!).

Five Songs Without Words

The older I become the more I become convinced that music is too polymorphously perverse to ever reach the stable ultimate urtext state of the final ideal version (smacks too much of the preordained solution). I believe that a work can exist in a number of different versions, assume different characteristics, accents and still tell the same basic tale, but from a different perspective (the Rashomon effect). This not only can happen within one composer's ouvre, but even among a group of composers (think of Paganini's Caprice No. 24). To a large extent, all the works on this CD share the material with other works not on the CD; they belong to a family of works, some closely related and others more like distant cousins. The first three Songs Without Words began as a transcription of songs from my Emily Dickinson Songbook, Book 1. The poetry of Emily Dickinson has become increasingly important to me over the years. I am particularly struck by their tonal intricacies and complex juxtaposition of opposed or perhaps even irreconcilable feelings. I strongly believed that many of the songs would make equally strong instrumental pieces. These instrumental transcriptions follow the original songs quite faithfully. After completing the first 3, I then began to add to the list with transcriptions of other songs as well as completely original instrumental songs. All together there are now eight such pieces composed for a variety of instruments: flute, clarinet, bassoon, horn, trombone, violin, viola, cello and the list will continue to grow. For bassoon I've selected a suite of five. The first three Songs Without Words that are transcriptions of the Dickinson settings have the following words:


Love can do all but raise the Dead
I doubt if even that
From such a giant were withheld
Were flesh equivalent

But love is tired and must sleep,
And hungry and must graze
And so abets the shining Fleet
Till it is out of gaze.



Oh honey of an hour,
I never knew thy power,
Prohibit me
Till my minutest dower,
My unfrequented flower,
Deserving be.



There is a solitude of space
A solitude of sea
A solitude of death, but these
Society shall be

Compared with that profounder site
That polar privacy
A soul admitted to itself -
Finite infinity.


4. L'Allegro is about an imaginary "wake." Its source is the coda in the "Hour of the Wolf" movement from my composition Dreamtime. The actual title, of course, is borrowed from John Milton's poem L'Allegro. The actual quote cited in the heading of the music is from the poem:

Hence, loathed Melancholy...
Mirth with thee, I mean to live.

I composed this transcription originally for bassoon, but have also made a version for horn and trombone.

5. Der Abschied In Memoriam was composed in memory of the wonderful Ukrainian composer Valentin Bibik, who died from a brain tumor. He was a very good friend of mine and I miss him. Near the end, the bassoon quotes a lovely series of melodic melismas from a piece for strings by Bibik. His music had both emotional direction and technical sophistication.

Partita No. 2

Most of the material in this Partita was also used in my large scale septet Dreamtime, completed in 1996. The revisions, which were ongoing, consisted mainly in reducing the number of movements from seven to six and completely rewriting the Tango section. The original version was written for the bassoon and piano duo of Yoshi and Brenda Ishikawa and was commissioned by Dr. Robert Meger. The dedication remains the same with gratitude.

The work is made up of 3 diptychs. The diptychs are sort of musical panels that act as mirrors of each other. The Intrada is for bassoon solo and is linked at the hip to Scherzo I: Kozak Mamai.

1. Intrada is a fierce piece or rather a fierce dance (all the pieces are in reality dances, think of the title Partita, of what it means in the cultural history of Western music; even the balladic Duma is a pas de deux). The intervalic lexicon is D-Eb-F#-G-A-Bb-C#-(D). In other words, near-Eastern. But also, Carpathian (Western Ukraine). It suggests the mountains, the solo dance, the circular motions on a limited space; wild gestures, linked to danger, because all around the dancer is a precipice. 2. Scherzo I: Kozak Mamai is a duet the piano more lyrical, the bassoon more coquettish, turning the fierceness into something more forgiving, less intense, more jocular (the piano here quotes a Ukrainian folk song). But the piano cannot tame it in the end it joins in the dance, tripping into the dangerous mood dominating the diptych. Kozak Mamai is a Ukranian folk-hero, one of the most popular characters in Ukrainian folk art, and usually depicted as a troubadour. He was also a sorcerer, a poet, a pied-piper, a seducer and a bit of a charlatan not unlike Till Eulenspiegel or Háry János.

3. Aria: Tears and 4. Scherzo II: West Wind (Feux follets) make the second diptych. The Aria intones the death bells (knells) of extreme unction, made immortal by Chopin's funeral march from his second piano sonata. The interval of a minor second was a common sound in the hospitals of the 19th century Catholic countries. This is a pas de deux of death. West Wind grows out of the Aria, exploring further the closely related bell tones. 5. Duma: Variations and 6. Tango is the third diptych, but now the image of one distorts the other. Duma is the longest and the principal emotional center of the work. The piano is turned into a sort of urban lute/bandura. It is in seven free form verses, each verse introduced by a new pitch-drone. They are minor thirds built on the following succession of tones (D-F-G-Bb-C#-Eb-E). In a sense, Duma is related (mirror-like) to Intrada: Intrada was solo, aggressive, full of confidence, risking everything; Duma is an accompanied solo; but the solo pays no attention to the accompanist, as if deaf and blind, groping, only being aggressive in its persistence of trying to recollect a memory of events long gone. Tango, from my first exposure to it as a very young boy, suggested to me something extraordinarily erotic. It also suggested something fleeting, a chance meeting, a forbidden zone: close embrace, chests together, legs invading each other's space It soon became a metaphor for exquisite temptation, the kind that St. Anthony must have experienced: bodily ecstasy masquerading as a spiritual awakening. The dance is a vertical sexual act no question about it, but so highly formalized that the partners can pretend it is otherwise. As its melodic basic, the Tango parodies the tune-tango "Hutsulka Ksenia" [The Hutsul-girl Ksenia], popular in Western Ukraine in the 20s and 30s.



"I have thoroughly enjoyed exploring the emotional depths of Virko Baley's pieces on this CD. The vivid characters he creates, and the great passions he injects are unrivaled in the existing bassoon repertoire, contributing a riveting body of works for bassoonists and listeners alike, from the powerful and large Partita No. 2 (Dreamtime Suite No. 3), the emotionally riveting Treny-Laments II, the colorful "...a trois", to the lyrical and varied Songs Without Words." Kristin Wolfe Jensen

[1] Treny-Laments II (1996) for bassoon solo 14:13

Kristin Wolfe Jensen, bassoon

[2] "...a trois" for oboe, bassoon and piano (1997) 8:29

Rebecca Henderson, oboe

Kristin Wolfe Jensen, bassoon

Virko Baley, piano

Five Songs Without Words (1993-2003)

[3] 1. Love can do all but raise the Dead 2:41

[4] 2. Oh honey of an hour 1:04

[5] 3. There is a solitude of space 4:33

[6] 4. L'Allegro 1:47

[7] 5. Der Abschied - In Memoriam 8:53

Kristin Wolfe Jensen, bassoon

Michelle Schumann, piano

Partita No. 2 for bassoon and piano (1991-92, rev. 2003) (Dreamtime Suite No. 3)

[8] 1. Intrada 4:20

[9] 2. Scherzo I: Kozak Mamai 2:03

[10] 3. Aria: Tears 3:54

[11] 4. Scherzo II: West Wind (Feux follets) 2:22

[12] 5. Duma: Variations 7:11

[13] 6. Tango 5:11

TOTAL 66:43


  • Recorded at Sarah & Earnest Butler School of Music Recording Studio Bates Recital Hall, The University of Texas, Austin
  • Dates and Recording Engineers:
    • Treny-Laments II 2/18 & 28, 3/6/2006 (Frank Simon)
    • "...a trois" 8/17/2007 (Andy Murphy)
    • Songs Without Words 11/30/2009 (Mark Sarisky)
    • Partita No. 2 3/21 & 25/2007 (Andy Murphy)
    • Treny-Laments II edited by Jonathan Marcus
    • "...a trois" edited by Chuck Foley, UNLV Recording Studio, Las Vegas, NV
    • Songs Without Words and Partita No. 2, edited by Gil Kaupp and Chuck Foley, UNLV Recording Studio, Las Vegas, NV
  • Mastered on Sonic Solutions by Jonathan Marcus at Orpharion Recordings, Long Beach, CA
  • Producers: Virko Baley and Kristin W. Jensen
  • Design: DWA Creative, Livia Daniels
  • Cover Photo: Brenda Ladd ©2007
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