Five Fragments

Year Composed: 2002
Instrumentation: piano
Duration 8 minutes

I. Prelude
II. Recitative
III. Scherzo
IV. Nocturne
V. Perpetuum Mobile

Audio Excerpts (MP3)

Program Notes

Five Fragments began life initially as a theme with variations, which I soon abandoned in favour of five-movement work whose movements, while suitably contrasting, could also be viewed as somewhat more developed 'variations on a theme.'

The title refers to several things. Each movement following the Prelude contains a ‘fragmented’ version of the theme. (In Nocturne, for example, the notes of the theme are scattered across a large range or buried within static chords.) Each movement also contains additional motivic fragments, some which are derived from the theme, others which are not. Several of these fragments appear in more than one movement under different guises, but others appear only once, like fleeting glimpses of another work. I was fascinated by the idea of a work with unfinished elements, as though it were itself a piece in a larger puzzle containing the source of these fugitive pieces. Finally, I hoped to convey a kind of psychological fragmentation, which would perhaps be the result of these structural loose-ends, that would only be resolved at the piece’s defiant conclusion.

In a fortissimo outburst, “Prelude” introduces the main thematic cell that will dominate the other four fragments. In “Recitative,” the theme is heard in a reflective, brooding manner that eventually grows more menacing. “Scherzo” is a raging tempest, in which the energy from the previous fragment is released. In contrast, “Nocturne” presents an atmosphere of eerie stasis. In the last fragment, “Perpetuum Mobile”, an intensely rhythmic variant of the theme alternates with an odd-metred groove distantly reminiscent of heavy metal.


  • November 7, 2002 - Kevin Lau, piano. Walter Hall, Faculty of Music, University of Toronto
  • January 9, 2003 - Kevin Lau, piano. Hart House, University of Toronto
  • July 30, 2003 - Lara Downes, piano. Mondavi Center Studio Theatre, University of California Davis

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