Adagio-Toccata

New Release by Pamela Sahel

Pleased to announce Pamela Sahel’s new recording of the Adagio-Toccata for 2 piccolos on Solo Musica, distributed by SONY MUSIC.  

The recording features Nicola Mazzanti as her duo partner and pianist, Igor Longato. 

The recording is available here:

The sheet music can be purchased here:

Program Notes

A seamless single movement work whose connecting outer movements feature a cadenza for the 2 piccolo soloists. The work was inspired by the AMC TelevisionSeries – Enter the Badlands. 

The Adagio-Toccata is based on the novel the Red Horse by Marca Barrett. Based loosely on facts, the novel depicts the story of Pedro de Alvarado  the Spanish conquistador of Guatemala whom acting as Cortez’s principal officer conquered the highland of Guatemala during the early 16th century. Subsequent expeditions were required to conquer San Salvador where he looses his first wife Francesca de la Cueva who dies shortly after her arrival in America due to malaria. Ten years after widowing, Pedro marries the sister of his first wife, Dona Beatriz de al Cueva then fights to suppress the Mixton natives of the Mayan region of Mexico. It is during this war that  Alvarado is forced to retreat.  After an unsuccessful assault Pedro is  crushed by his own red horse that looses its footing. Beatriz hears of her beloved husbands death and mourns him by painting the inner rooms of their castle  black. She dies while doing so along with the destruction of the city of Guatemala by the terrifying volcano called “de Agua”. 

A pitch collection and its 11 transpositions was used to build the work’s vocabulary.  The resultant vocabulary taken from the pitch collection personifies in sound: 

  1. The Golden Empire of 16th century Spain
  2. the character of Pedro de Alvarado
  3. the elusive and esoteric music of the Mayan civilization
  4. the love of Pedro for his first wife Francesca
  5. the obsessive love of his second wife Beatriz
  6. Pedro’s death
  7.  and the impending tragedy of Beatriz by the erupting volcano

Movement 1 

The 1st movement introduces the power of the Spanish empire, the mystery of the Mayan culture and the brutal personality of Pedro de Alvarado. 

The Mayan theme GF22 taken from the ascending scale pattern of the prime transports us into the music of conquistadors the empirical power of Spain’s golden era.  Traditional tonalities  derived from the pitch collection depict the empirical strength of Spain. 

The piccolo enters performing a melody suggestive of Mayan folk music over a d drone. The music gradually depicts a more atonal nature creating an unsettling quality, a fore-glimpsed doom of events that can only lead to blood, war, the decimation of a culture, and blind glory. 

The musical material shifts, defining Pedro’s ambitious, brutal, and cruel character. 

The themes of Spain, the Mayan culture and Pedro’s ambition slowly ritard and decrescendo, material guiding us to the 2 piccolo cadenza which in actuality is Pedro himself, affording his men a brief repose before impatience, arrogance, ambition and visions of personal glory compel the material to recapitulate the Andante section, marshaling his men forward. 

The end of the 1st mvt conveys mystery, impending doom, dread and anxious silence. 

Movement II

The Toccata presto maintains a continuous tempo based on a variety of rhythmic configurations. The music depicts the concrete elements of the terrain of Guatemala which the Spaniards had difficulty acclimating. Ambushed by the Indians, subject to unfamiliar climate and disease governs the form of this section. 

The climax of the composition culminates with the death of Pedro, crushed by his red horse , the death of Beatriz his obsessed wife, the eruption of La Agua, and the resultant destruction of Guatemala. . 

The Adagio-Toccata in 2 movements is approximately 17 minutes in length. 

Movement I              7:43 

Movement II             9:10 

Library: World Music 

Duration: 17’00

Difficulty: College/Advanced