Portraits II for clarinet, violin, cello and piano was commissioned and premiered by SOLI Chamber Ensemble at Ruth Taylor Concert Hall in San Antonio, TX, in January of 2000.
The title Portraits II comes from a piano solo work of the same title (Portraits I) and both share the first piece, Image. Portraits II includes four pieces representing a range of emotions: passion and lyricism in Image, unpredictability and playfulness in Capriccio, tenderness and lightheartedness in Cantilena and Dance, and vitality and decisiveness in the Finale.
Image (I) includes two themes which are characterized by the melodic ascending leap of a ninth. After their exposition these two themes collide in a dissonant manner in the Agitato and climax fortissimo in the high register of the Grandioso section. The piece finishes in pianissimo with the second theme gradually disintegrating itself in fragmented descending motives ending with a question mark.
The Capriccio /Lento (II) is unpredictable with constant changes of mood and tempo. There are twelve changes of tempo in this short piece. Two contrasting themes, one leggiero and fast first played by the piano, and one slow and lyrical first played by the clarinet and the violin are developed motivically throughout the piece.
The Cantilena and Dance (III) starts with a lyrical theme in the cello followed by another lyrical theme in the clarinet. The first theme is then developed using Baroque techniques such as canons and imitation techniques thickening the texture. Freedom comes back when all the instruments subsequently bring up a rhythmic variation of the head motif of the second theme in the Allegro ballabile e con spirito section. Repeated notes are added to gain insistence, rhythmic activity and a dance quality. Ascending subsequent sequences in each instrument create excitement. The atmosphere keeps gathering more excitement and momentum by the use of syncopations, repeated notes and changes of meter arriving to a climax with all the instruments in unison. The joyful atmosphere then calms down with a fermata before the piano features the lyrical second theme.
The Finale is brought about without interruption and brings back the main theme of Image with its characteristic leap of ninth. While the piano insistently repeats an ostinato rhythm, the violin, clarinet and cello alternate playing the first theme or parts of it. The exciting atmosphere is enhanced by going half a step up. The texture thickens and reaches a climactic point with the piano featuring ascending and descending scales and stopping in a short fermata. The atmosphere then becomes very rhythmic with a dissonant ostinato in the piano and the second theme from Image featured in the clarinet, then the violin and the cello. The texture continues to thicken toward the end with changes of meter in fortissimo.