Composer's Notes: Noam Elkies' "Allegro Troppo"

“Allegro Troppo” Op.39 (1995), written for and premiered by Scott Yoo and the Metamorphosen Chamber Ensemble, is a one-movement work for string orchestra in an unapologetically Classical idiom.  The music of the First Viennese School (Mozart, Beethoven, Mendelssohn) always a fertile source of wonder and inspiration, can still call forth new music in a similar vein; it need not matter whether a piece was composed in 1995 or in 1795, so long as it delights, moves or astounds on its own terms. “Allegro Troppo”, though at times intricate, is never cryptic, and a capable and committed performance should make lengthy program notes redundant if not distracting.

The title of course plays off the admonition of the familiar tempo marking "allegro ma non troppo" [allegro, but not too much]: for once we abandon this restraint.  Naturally, the piece is not meant to be played literally "too fast" --- the actual tempo marking is "Presto" --- but its near-*perpetuum mobile* contrapuntal writing in asymmetric 5/4 meter should at times convey the off-balance headlong rush suggested by the title.

This piece doubles as the final movement of a string quartet, provisionally titled the "Consonant Quartet", whose other three movements are in various stages of partial completion.

—Noam Elkies

Noam D. Elkies is professor of mathematics at Harvard and the youngest person ever tenured at the University.  His work on elliptic curves, lattices, and other aspects of the theory of numbers has been recognized by such prizes and awards as the Presidential Young Investigator Award of the National Science Foundation and the Prix Peccot of the College de France.

Alongside his mathematical career, Elkies has been playing the piano and composing since the age of three.  Born in New York, he studied piano with A.Vardi in Israel, and with J.Carlson at the Juilliard Pre-College after returning to the States in 1978; his composition teachers have included Sadai, Davidovsky and Kirchner. His solo performances include Bach's Brandenburg Concerto #5 with the Metamorphosen Chamber Ensemble and Elkies' own “Rondo Concertante” with the Greater Boston Youth Symphony Orchestras' Repertory Orchestra in Boston's Symphony Hall.  His compositions include the abovementioned “Rondo Concertante”; the "Brandenburg Concerto #7", commissioned and premiered by the Metamorphosen Chamber Ensemble; Three Steganographic Etudes, which he premiered in Hungary at the Bridges 2010 conference; and the opera “Yossele Solovey”, staged at Harvard in 1999.

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