Daniel Dorff’s Tweet for solo piccolo is a four-and-a-half minute joyous romp with repeated thematic material that suggests the flitting and chirping of birds.
Composer Daniel Dorff – Our Personal story
Although we live close to each other in the suburbs of Philadelphia, composer Daniel Dorff and I first met at a performance at the 2000 flute convention in Columbus. Over the past 12 years we have had a business relationship that has developed into a close friendship. I recorded his Sonatine de Giverny on my solo piccolo CD, “Take Wing” and play all of his newly composed works for solo flute and piccolo in his presence before he takes his works to print for Presser and Tritone publications. Sometimes he changes his written instructions – such as breath marks and tempo – pending the stylistic interpretation I take. If he feels my musical interpretation is not fitting, he might notate his directives clearer.
Our spring and summer run-throughs or rehearsals for upcoming performances would begin with a walk in my backyard garden as inspiration for both of us. When I asked Danny if he would write a piccolo solo for me, our commission agreement was gardening lessons and a carload of transplants. Tweet is reminiscent of the birds, flowers and the outdoors. As my transplants are flourishing in his bourgeoning backyard, many of Danny’s recent compositions for flute, such as Perennials and Woodland Reverie are influenced by his views of nature.
A sound sample of Lois Bliss Herbine performing Tweet live on a solo piccolo recital at Rice University
Performance tips and strategies for Tweet
Tweet’s opening Volante segment is marked “strict tempo”, however, this should not be confused with rigidness of feel. This composer is quite happy to offer Tweet for stylistic interpretation. As he explained to me, the word “strict” is merely taking and maintaining a similar tempo throughout the work to unify its various sections. The repeated melodic progression of three quick grace notes ending in long quarter notes restated throughout the work is in itself a technical challenge. Performers should take care that the fingering and pitch of each grace note is accurate. In the middle register of the piccolo, even subtle shadings of pitch can create an improper sounding underlying chord. Fortunately, it takes subtle changes in the embouchure and air placement on the piccolo to make corrections. Practice making the adjustments slowly at first and work up to speed. I first learned this solo on the flute to memorize the proper pitch of the chord progressions before tackling the work on the piccolo. The instrument changeover is welcome, because the smaller finger movement of the piccolo helps the passage move quickly and freely when performed up to speed. The tempo is marked c. 124 or “circa” 124. The actual tempo is not as important as the fleeting impression of the grace notes.
Each time this melody is stated I try to do something different with it. During the premiere I was taking liberties that I hadn’t taken in practice: abrupt shifts and extreme dynamic changes. These were supported by the room’s acoustics and the composer’s wishes. Since I have worked with Danny for years I know that he prefers me taking chances and trying out new ideas. Upon taking Tweet “on the road” in piccolo recitals for Rice University and the University of Texas, I discovered that I make these changes at will – no two performances are alike. For example, sometimes I think the repetition of the opening statement being joyful and other times more stately and somber, and I add a dose of whimsy when I feel like it!
One part that I suggest to keep in strict tempo with no variance is the repetitive ascending sixteenth note runs that begin in measure 10. I perform these as written – sotto voce with punctuations from the inserted accents in the first segment, and with added dynamic contrasts in the next three recaps. The accents go against the pulse of the measure, which Dorff wrote to be unweighted. This creates a sly and syncopated movement that foreshadows the jazzy middle section.
Since the theme and its variations repeat often in the work it is a good idea to follow the wide dynamic changes the composer has marked, particularly from m. 46 – 47, 61 – 62 then to 63, 81 – 82 then to 83, 103 – 104, and 121 – 122. Make them as unexpected as possible.
In the center of the work is a pianissimo section appropriately marked “secretly tiptoeing”. This should be played with stealth. As Dorff suggested to me in performance, the notes should be so soft that even if a note or two doesn’t actually sound, the character is maintained.
Measure 66 begins the lighthearted jazz dance. Take the accents literally, they are well placed and propel this center section into the repetition of the opening theme, but not before revisiting the quiet tiptoeing notes from before.
The coda is a signature Dorff finish, a quick gallop to the end with a final grace note-filled flourish.