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Nocturne is essentially a reflective and quiet work. These qualities are characteristic of how I envision a nocturne, or "night-piece."
"Canto" is a single-line melody framed by background sounds (including tappings) and echoes of itself. The clarinet theme is often answered by all of the strings in close stretti, thereby creating a blurred effect -- perhaps the effect of playing or singing a melody out-of-doors at night, generating reverberations amid ambient sounds.
"Tarantella" is a light-hearted treatment of the familiar 6/8 dance. The motion of the tarantella is often halted abruptly and divided into contrasting fragments, The clarinet, which does not appear until the tarantella has amply established itself in the strings, arrives as a devilish creature -- mocking and toying with the strings. His playing is often marked "obnoxiously" or "impudently." The strings, snapping their bows at him, reprimand and ultimately silence his rude behavior.
"Appassionato" is a through-composed movement with numerous changes in mood -- all contributing to a love song. The opening section is gentle and textural, perhaps harkening back to the "Canto." This is followed by an ebb and flow of the music, often rising in intensity and then resolving into peaceful, cantabile passages. The closing section brings back "sighing" motives (descending semi-tone or whole-tone appoggiaturas... rising and falling third) reminiscient of the opening, but now presented in the strings as well as the clarinet. This movement often contrasts intense/passionate moments with those which are tender/peaceful.
Notes by the composer