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for solo violin

Although the title suggests otherwise, no improvisations take place in this solo work. I am convinced that any good performer can play any composition as if he improvises on the spot. However, real improvisation happens 'live' and is only possible if space is given to freely interpret musical material within an agreed framework (such as a chord scheme). In this composition, the underlying structure is too complex to be able to improvise it ‘live’. The writing of this work took several months, proving that Improvisations is rather a composition and no improvisation.

My need for underlying coherence and absolute control over musical material shows that I have become a composer rather than an improviser. Although I myself have been a violinist, I do not use my instrument while composing. Even when I write music for my own instrument, composing is always a quest that is separate from idiomatic thinking.

Improvisations is essentially a chaconne, if the chaconne-idea is reduced to a composition which is based on a recurring chord progression. Unlike the traditional chaconne, which is usually a varying progression of 4 or 8 bars. Improvisations is based on a balanced, cyclic chord scheme consisting of 64 chords. This cycle is played twice. The beginning again takes up the golden section of the work (recognizable by the only bartokpizzicato in the composition). As with a chaconne, the chords are often expanded with other notes, which in turn are rooted in four different modes. Both the choice of the chords and the sequence of the modes is serially organized. But despite this cerebral structure, while composing I primarily aimed for a seemingly improvisational organic sounding whole.

The chord-playing on a violin is very close to my heart. My love for Johann Sebastian Bach already resulted in an adaptation of the three-voice Ricercare from Das Musikalische Ofper for solo violin. Strictly speaking, it is impossible to make it sound as if 4 different notes are played simultaneously on a violin, but Bach challenges the violinist to suggest this. This inspired me to turn this technical ‘handicap’ into an advantage: by 'breaking up' four-part chords, it is possible to play other notes in that fraction of a second, for example with a tremolo (rapid succession of two different tones, so they seem to sound simultaneously). Many chords in Improvisations are also five-voiced. Unlike Bach's scores I have written each chord to the smallest detail in my composition, so that technically no impossible harmony can be found in the score.



Wibert Aerts, violin
18/05/2014 - Live - Flanders Festival, Kortrijk

13 minutes
  • Solo Violin
Commissioned by
Concertgebouw Brugge


Concertgebouw, Bruges,
Wibert Aerts - Violin