For clarinet, violin and cello
Commissioned by Alter Ego.
May, 11th 2002
Merkin Concert Hall, New York
Alan R. Kay, clarinet, Sunghae Anna Lim, violin, Greg Hesselink, cello
  • Program Notes

    Peripeteia grew out of my appreciation of the beautiful ways in which the sound color of the clarinet blends so harmoniously with that of string instruments, here violin and cello. At times, as in the opening gestures of the piece, the strings provide an environment, or landscape, in which an active clarinet takes on the role of a protagonist. A little further on, the cello is highlighted, the clarinet and violin providing an accompaniment mostly in parallel fourths. Sometimes the three instruments act almost as a single entity, combining their colors through additive pro-cesses. At other times, each takes on its own independent role in a contrapuntal colloquy. Interesting sonorities emerge on those occasions when the clarinet functions as the ensemble’s bass. Peripeteia’s musical impulses emanate from the opening idea, in which the clarinet, in a floridly melismatic outburst, diverges from, and then re-converges on the initial note sustained by the cello. From that point of departure, the music moves continually through scenarios suggesting divergence and re-convergence, sudden turns of events, and unexpected reversals.


  • New York Times

    “Some of the festival’s most striking music skirted the style wars entirely. In Richard Festinger’s Peripeteia (1999), for clarinet, violin and cello, mild angularity quickly melts into seductively singing themes and an irresistible interplay among the three instruments.”

    – Allan Kozinn
  • Mittelbayerishe Zeitung (Nürnberg) Peripeteia

    “Hochsitze, schwer zu spielen Musik, Malerei mit Folien: Richard Festinger und Régis Labatut zu Gast im Künstlerhaus II / Sonntag offene Studios - Denkste! Welche Klasse der Mann hat, bewies er kurz darauf per Tonkonserve. Eine CD-Einspielung seines Kammermusikwerks „Peripeteia“ für Klarinette, Violine und Violoncello entpuppte sich als virtuos konstruiertes, extreme abwechslungsreiches und spannendes Stück. Es gehe ihm darum, sagt er, dass seine Musik jederzeit die Richtung wechseln könne, das immer etwas neues, unerwartetes kommt, es sich dann aber so anhöre, als wäre diese neue Wendung die natürlichste Sache von der Welt. „Das ist natürlich eine sehr, sehr schwer zu spielende Musik“, gesteht er, sagt aber auch mit einem Augenzwinkern: „Ich glaube, dass all die leichten Stücke schon geschreiben sind.“ Festinger legt wert auf Klangfarbenwechsel, auf ein differenziertes Timbre und hat auch kein Problem damit, wenn man ihm sagt, dass sein Stück schon sehr Deutsche klinge. „Ja, sehr kontrapunktig“, stimmt er überein. Festinger lehrt an der „San Francisco State Unviersity“ als Professor für Komposition. Seine Stücke wurden bereits in ganz Amerika, in Europa und Asien gespielt. Ursprünglich kommt er vom Jazz. Da will er auch wieder hin, sagt er – wenn er in Rente ist.”

  • Journal of the Society for American Music Bridge CD

    "The result is magical, one of those special moments in contemporary composition where the sound itself supersedes syntax and the music transcends any semantic aspirations we may have for it. In sum, this CD presents an enjoyable program of intellectually and viscerally compelling music that spans much of the career of a living American composer who deserves to be better known."

    – Josh Levine
  • Karen Moorman, Classical Voice of North Carolina, 6/11/08

    “Move over Haydn! Richard Festinger, composer and distinguished Professor of Music Composition at San Francisco State University, presents a recording of five chamber works… featuring the Naumburg award-winning New Millennium Ensemble … [Festinger] approaches composition with the intellectual curiosity of an academic, the heart of a romantic, and the depth of one totally immersed in the art… is neatly structured and rich in counterpoint and rhythmic intricacy… [Variations for Piano] culls the intricacy of Liszt's Les Préludes and the spaciousness of Webern's piano works… perfectly executed, well-crafted music…. Construction en metal et bois for piano and percussion pushes the boundaries of chamber music… Here Festinger gives us his best and the demanding challenges are met with equal passion. Margaret Kampmeier and John Ferrari, like two fighter pilots, perform at lightning speed and with the intensity of a tarantella…. Festinger's music, like a Mark Rothko painting, is beautiful, even on the surface. And discovering what's beneath makes it rewarding.”

    – Karen Moorman
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