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Gwyn Pritchard: Duo with a Young Girl
viola and  piano (1980)  


The ‘Young Girl’ of the title is from the old English dance tune ‘The Nutting Girl’, with which I first became acquainted when another young girl, my twelve year old daughter, played it to me on the violin.


Although immediately attracted by the tune’s freshness and originality (it is remarkable long and artfully constructed for a folk tune) I felt decidedly hesitant when the idea first occurred to me to use it in a composition, having never been attracted to musical quotation or parodistic techniques. The problem was solved when it became clear to me that this particular tune would best be left exactly as it stands; subjecting it to any kind of technical transformation would rob the Nutting Girl of her most valuable quality, her innocence.  But that very quality, set against the two contrasted musical materials which constitute the main musical substance of the piece (one free and colouristic, the other stricter, percussive and aggressive) offered some fascinating avenues to explore compositionally. 


In the course of the piece the folk tune makes three appearances, the first being only a hint of the opening phrases. At the second appearance (in the piano) the Nutting Girl is clothed in somewhat academic attire, her only protection against a highly abrasive assault from the viola; and although she has to depart rather abruptly her innocence remains undefiled. The third time we meet her is at the end of the piece where she is presented (in two different tempi simultaneously) without any significant changes to her basic nature, set against bell-like sounds in the piano part.


Duo with a Young Girl was composed in 1980 to a commission by the viola player Philip Clark with funds from South West Arts. It was first performed in 1981 in Auckland, New Zealand by Philip Clark and Brian Sayer

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