One of my very first pieces of music was a solo flute piece called Chardonnay, written in 2000. Ten years later, when the commission came for this piece, it was with the stipulation that it be called Zinfandel. At this rate, I’m hoping to write a solo woodwind piece every ten years, named for a wine (yes, I already have the names picked out!)
More seriously, though, this piece was written at an inflection point in my life: I had just begun my journey into studying Indian classical music, and this piece was one of the first ones in which I tried to get a sense of this incredible music that ultimately became a major influence on my style. The beginning section just starts to bend towards the idea of a raag, both in its unique, characteristic pitch collection and in its development of melody, just barely hinting at a Hindustani aalap.
While writing the fast section, I held an image in my mind: a glimmer of light reflecting and refracting off the surface of the dark, rich wine. It reflects in one place, pauses momentarily, then flits asymmetrically to appear in another place. The liquid is silent and still, but the surface is moving very delicately.
A note on rhythm: The rhythm in the first section should be very flexible, using the metronome mark only as a guideline during points of stillness. In the second section, each phrase is rhythmically rigid, but the rests in between are expressive pauses. The bracketed rests suggest a rough length, but the player should aim to keep motion and energy in each pause, as if notes are still being played that are too soft to hear.
Listen to this beautiful recording of Zinfandel played by Nanci Belmont, bassoon.
This piece was commissioned by Bruno and Norma Repp for bassoonist Tariq Masri. It was premiered on February 17, 2015 at the Alabama Symphony Chamber Series at Samford University.
This work is included in the repertoire list for the Meg Quigley Vivaldi Competition.