Three Portraits of a Witch

Version for Chamber Orchestra

Lauren Bernofsky

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Quick Overview

Three Portraits of a Witch was commissioned by The Harford Ballet as music for the witches in a ?Wizard of Oz? production, directed by Pamela Villeneuve and choreographed by Melanie Ortt. The premiere performance took place on May 20, 2006, at the Amoss Center for the Performing Arts in Bel Air, Maryland, under the baton of Anthony Rivera. The original version was scored for small chamber orchestra, and the piece was later expanded to full orchestra.

The resulting orchestral suite consists of three sketches depicting an evil witch. She is represented by a four-note chord consisting of a minor triad with a major seventh, and this chord is the framework for various musical themes.

In Black Magic, we find the witch at her demonic best, casting spells, chanting curses, mixing potions.... She is represented by the bass clarinet, and the music begins with an evil-sounding theme, punctuated by eerie flexatone glissandi. At one point, her ?evil? music is interrupted by ?good,? which makes a brief appearance in the violins, foreshadowing music that will be heard later in the movement. The witch tries to fight it off, but good takes over, and benevolent music casts a luminous warmth over her, played by the strings and woodwinds together. The witch fights against it with increased fury, but good prevails, in a sweet, innocent-sounding theme in the violins, bringing the movement to a close.

In Witch?s Nightmare, the witch dreams her evil dreams. She is represented, again, by the bass clarinet, her theme based on the minor/major seventh chord. She dreams that she enchants some forest animals to do her bidding, in a quirky-sounding tune that begins with fluctuating minor thirds in the strings, which are then joined by the woodwinds. The snare drum announces another spell she casts on a different group of animals. Now the music sounds more militaristic, with short, mechanical-sounding notes in the woodwinds, which are then joined by the strings. With both spells working their magic, we hear the two themes at the same time. An ominous-sounding fanfare in the brass leads the listener back to the witch?s creepy music in the bass clarinet. The specter of the good music from the first movement makes a fleeting appearance in the violins. The witch combats the good with even greater fury, in intricate lines in the bass clarinet. But in this nightmare, good wins out, and the witch withers away to nothing.

The final movement is Wild Ride on a Broomstick. The theme is in a quick 6/8 time, the opening notes once again outlining the minor/major seventh chord. The melody is carried by the strings, with short

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Additional Information

Commission Commissioned by The Harford Ballet Company, Pamela Villeneuve, Artistic Director
Composition Date 2006
Duration 00:14:00
Orchestration 1(dbl. Picc.) 1 1(dbl. B.Cl.) 1 – 1 1 2(B.Tbn.) 0; 1Perc. Str.
Premiere May 20, 2006 - The Harford Ballet, Melanie Ort, choreographer, Anthony Rivera, conductor; Amoss Center for the Performing Arts, Bel Air, MD. (Note: Premiered as an accompaniment to ballet, the chamber orchestra version of Three Portraits of a Witch prem

Details

I. Black Magic
II. Witch's Nightmare
III. Wild Ride on a Broomstick

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