Fevered Pitches

for string orchestra

premiered November 30, 1997
Pro Arte Chamber Orchestra of Boston, Giséle Ben-Dor, conductor
Sanders Theater, Cambridge Massachusetts

  “To preface the events, there was a "Musical Birthday Card" by composer Tom Flaherty for Pro Arte's 20th anniversary. Fanfarelike in duration, the piece for strings had a kind of spinning, fluttering surface, a counterpoint of melodies between upper and lower instrument groups, and a certain amount of minimalist additive and diminutive treatment of repeated motifs.” [Pro Arte Chamber Orchestra of Boston]
– Ellen Pfeifer, The Boston Herald


Fevered Pitches for string orchestra was written to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Pro Arte Chamber Orchestra of Boston. I was pleased to have been asked to contribute to a series of short "birthday cards" to be played in each of the 1997-98 season’s concerts, and hoped to compose something that would complement the rest of the program. When I heard that the rest of the November concert was dedicated to Mozart, my first thought was to write a light piece making use of some fragments of Mozart-like music, perhaps an accompaniment figure. I found that the keys of the other pieces on the concert were D, F, and Eb, and began thinking about how those notes might be incorporated into the piece. As the little piece grew, I found it did not want to let go of those notes too easily, and its incessant urgency to use and gradually define those notes in a tonal and rhythmic context overcame initial thoughts of a completely light-hearted divertimento. There is a nearly constant undercurrent of 11 sixteenth notes against the prevailing 4/4 time; it comes to the fore near the end, just before all three pitches find a common resolution. The result doesn’t really sound like Mozart, but I hope it serves as a short overture. Happy Birthday, Pro Arte!

score excerpt