for Violin, Viola, and Double Bass

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    Minneapolis Artists Ensemble
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In 1986, my Prisms for Cello Quartet and Orchestra of Cellos won the 3rd American Cello Congress Jill Sackler composition contest, and was performed by about 150 cellists at that event. One of them, a cellist named Janet Horvat, was a member of the Minneapolis Artists Ensemble, a chamber ensemble whose members were drawn from the Minnesota Orchestra. She convinced her group to commission me for a work for the non-standard combination of violin, viola, and double bass, and I delivered the finished work to the group in the summer of that same year. It received its premiere the following Fall in Minneapolis. The title comes from the trip that my wife and I had taken through the western part of the US and Canada that year, during which we witnessed the spectacular butte formations in the State of Utah, among many other wonders. These greatly impressed me, and with that trip fresh in my mind, I thought of attempting to write a work that would convey some of the sense of majesty that we'd encountered in that particular portion of the creation. Thus, Maesta is the Italian word for "majestic", but I also considered that it could be an acrostic for Minneapolis Artists Ensemble String Trio Adventure. My mentioning this feature of the title brought some considerable laughter during the speech I gave immediately prior to the premiere on October 5, 1986. The three movements of the work traverse a vigorous opening movement, a gentle and languid middle movement, and a finale full of jollity ending in a coda with a short prestissimo passage with all three instruments muted.

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