Dissolve, O My Heart

While researching through the wide range of works written by the 21st-century composer, Missy Mazzoli, I was immediately drawn to her virtuosic, solo piece for the violin, Dissolve, O My Heart. Through recent personal interest and research conducted on contemporary music, I have discovered the tendency of modern music to fit into the mold of the Western Art Classical tradition. To no surprise, this piece was no different. Dissolve, O My Heart blends styles of the Baroque era and 20th-century music, with an added folk flavor. The ambiguity in meter, mode mixture, and the ambivalence of form are paired with simple, clear phrases, lack of extended techniques, and most importantly, the ode to the Baroque Era, a quotation from the J.S.Bach’s Violin Partita in D Minor. Mazzoli composed a thoroughly enjoyable piece that showcases her abilities as a Classically trained musician, captivates the audience, and transcends the barriers of the Baroque era and 20th-century music.

The piece captured my attention from the first chord, as I was taken aback that the opening D Minor chord seemed to be no other than the same one found in the last movement of Bach’s Partita in D Minor. Most significantly, the piece kept coming back to it, confirming its importance and forming a semblance to rondo form in the shape of ABACA. The return of the main theme rounded out the piece extremely well. It also provided a brilliant contrast to the virtuosic, dynamically driven B and C sections and brought the listener back to a common and familiar ground.

Mazzoli put her own perspective into play by providing the majority of the piece with an uncertain meter. The result is that the entire piece feels like a playful, but technically challenging cadenza. Therefore, the piece provides a lot of room for the performer’s interpretation of rhythm and phrasing. The main theme, serving as the pillar of the piece, did, however, provide an indication of duple meter, again delivering to the listener a connection to the Western Art Classical tradition.

Even though, at times, it was hard to grasp the key of the piece, Mazzoli seemed to center the tonal on D, due to the quotation used in the beginning. The piece is made more atmospheric and mysterious by the ever present play of mode mixture. However, with her use of droning D and A notes with each return of the main theme, Mazzoli creates a relatively stable environment for the piece. The overall harmonies in the piece are perceived as generally tonal. As it is a solo violin piece, one could expect the texture to be purely monophonic. However, Mazzoli shies away from that expectation and inflicts a sense of homophony through skillfully written chord progressions. This style of composing seems to be also reminiscent of the Baroque era, as J.S.Bach was no stranger to indicating complex harmonies in his solo works, most notably, the Six Cello Suites.

Missy Mazzoli accomplished an attention grabbing storyline in Dissolve, O My Heart. Through the muted main theme, the virtuosic passages, and the frequent use of glissandos, creating a folk music atmosphere, Mazzoli designed images ranging from home to heartbreak to a finale of whispering nostalgia. By utilizing only the traditional Classical style of composing, this piece managed to bring together different worlds, opposing eras of music, all the while capturing the heart of the listener.

Ivana Biliskov

Recording used:

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