Rain and Ash (String Quartet No. 2) —2008
Rain and Ash (String Quartet No. 2) was composed for the Borromeo String Quartet, commissioned by the Arizona Friends of Chamber Music. It is recorded on the album Robert Maggio: String Quartets.
- Rain (in celebration of our union)
- Ash (in memory of my father)
Rain and Ash (String Quartet No. 2) is structured in two highly contrasting movements. The celebratory first movement, “Rain”, is a compact rondo that alternates between an earthy, dance-like refrain and more lyrical episodes. The energetic melody of the refrain is heard a total of four times, becoming more ecstatic and jubilant with each return.
The second movement, “Ash”, begins with a serene melody, high in the 1st violin, which is abruptly silenced by violent repeated chords. These “brutal” chords interrupt the flow throughout the movement, appearing increasingly further apart; in between them the melody returns in various states (plaintive, distant, sweet, mysterious, wailing), yet it is never intact, and is permanently altered. The fullness of the violin’s opening melody hovers in memory, always just out of reach.
In the summer of 2007, after 17 years of sharing our lives together, my partner and I held a civil union ceremony in a quiet courtyard near our home. We exchanged rings and vows in front of our 7-year-old daughter, our parents and siblings, aunts and uncles, nephews and nieces, cousins, and friends. It was an emotionally powerful and rewarding ceremony, and the dinner party that followed was magnificent. It was the best day of my life… and it rained like I had never seen it rain before. Someone told me that evening that the rain was an omen of good luck. If so, it was short-lived because five days later, my father died suddenly of a heart attack. It is the most profound loss in my life.
In homage to both my family’s Italian American roots, and those of my partner’s family, the opening theme of both movements is based on a Neapolitan lullaby. About halfway through the second movement, I introduce a new melody, “Skye Boat Song”, often used as a lullaby. A tune that I’ve always found hauntingly beautiful, this second lullaby becomes a metaphor for the journey of grieving, the acceptance of loss, and the openness to change.