Decoding the composition
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Aegean is the second of two companion works written for piano trio (PE181) the other being Corybas (PE179) The works were commissioned by Ian Graham as a birthday gift for his wife Agi Lehar-Graham ( the original manuscript adds a little wordplay to the work’s title, spelling Aegean as Agi-Ian), and in grateful recognition of the New Zealand Chamber Soloists (NZCS) Piano Trio – Katherine Austin, Lara Hall and James Tennant.

Short and elegant, Aegean is perfect for trios wishing to add a dose of romance to a concert programme. The work is inspired in part by the view from my parents’ house, which overlooks the Aegean Sea. My substantial body of relentlessly high-energy works might lead one to assume that, in the case of Aegean the sea is visualised at its most stormy and tumultuous, the work being pushed forward with tempo surges depicting accelerated ocean currents. Instead, we are presented with a scene in which a calm sea gently rises and falls – the piano’s odd-metered and softly articulated rhythmic figure evokes the irregular movements of the ocean’s surface, while passages that add repeated two-note semiquaver patterns in its upper staff mirror the glistening of sunlight on the water’s rippling contours. The peacefulness of Aegean is reinforced by the poise in the string writing that decorates the work’s unhurried journey. The violin and cello rhythmically intertwine, with softly expressive solo passages emerging throughout. The registral arc of the violin peaks with a series of sustained high notes, underpinned by harmonic lifts courtesy of the cello and gently rippling piano. The work becomes bathed in warmth, like the sun emerging from behind a cloud, sending light to play once again on the Aegean’s undulating surface. The strings finally merge into rhythmic unison, sharing the idyllic melodic statement that concludes the work.


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for Piano Trio

Commissioner: Ian Graham

Instrumentation: Piano, Violin, Cello

Premiered by New Zealand Chamber Soloists on June 22, 2012 at the Casa Dei Mezzo Festival in Makrigialos, Crete, Greece

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