violin or viola soloist
flute, clarinet, violin, cello, percussion, and piano (2013)




22 min.


violin or viola and chamber ensemble


ii. adagio
iii. teaching piece
iv. aria semplice

Program Notes

I. This movement could have been entitled Toccata scherzanda. After a wild introduction, the movement erupts into a rush of activity, with the emphasis on the frenetic solos of the viola. After a brief reminder of the opening, the movement ends with a flurry. The soloist and the ensemble share material, but the soloist dominates.

II. Adagio features long, flowing lines, and gentle counterpoint. There is rarely any sense of accompaniment from any of the instruments, with the viola functioning as a “1st among equals.” The movement is a very loose rondo, but the form is quite free, even meandering.

III. Teaching Piece introduces a very different kind of procedure from the rest of the work. In this movement, the viola introduces a motive or idea and “teaches” it to the next instrument, who picks it up and fashions the idea to make it their own. As the soloist introduces more and more ideas, he is gradually subsumed into the texture. Only occasionally does the soloist emerge to guide the ensemble to the next idea. After briefly losing the initiative in a violent shift of texture, the soloist reemerges as the teacher. The overall structure is full of minimalist-inspired textures, that are formed from tiny, slowly-evolving repetitions.

IV. The fourth movement is attaca from the previous. This somewhat ironically entitled movement, Aria semplice, crashes between a simple, folksy motive and a series of highly charged dramatic gestures. The bulk of the movement consists of an immense cadenza. Even when the ensemble is playing, the viola is usually in a completely different sonic world. The movement ends as it began, with a long clarinet tone.

Klang is the German word for “sound.”

Justin Merritt Music

Composer Justin Merritt was the youngest-ever winner of the ASCAP Foundation Rudolph Nissim Award. He is also the winner of a host of other awards including the McKnight Fellowship, the Copland Award, and the Polyphonos Prize. His music has been played by the Minnesota Orchestra, Indianapolis Symphony, and on A Prairie Home Companion.

His evening length cantata, The Path, was premiered at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis in April 2018. The work is a setting of a collection of Buddhist Pali scriptures translated by the composer and set for multiple choirs, soloists, and large orchestra.

He received his Bachelors from Trinity University and his Masters and Doctorate from Indiana University. He studied composition with Samuel Adler, Sven-David Sandstrom, Claude Baker, Timothy Kramer, Don Freund, and electronic and computer music with Jeffrey Hass. He is currently Professor and Chair of Music at St. Olaf College. He resides in Northfield, Minnesota with his wife Faye and their children Cullen Fang Ouxiang and Molly Fang Qinghe.

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