Sketches of Venasque

Tracks 1- 5 SKETCHES OF VENASQUE (1990)

Music for solo piano | Performed by Michael Shinn

Venasque is a beautiful hilltop village in the south of France, just east of the Rhone. It was the nearby summer home to the Popes of Avignon during their reign in the 14th and 15th centuries; it overlooks groves of olive and cherry trees and the vineyards and villages of the southern valley of Mont Ventoux. I composed these pieces in a hilltop studio there, inspired by the daily rhythms of the village and the surrounding vistas.

I. Bells of St. Siffrein – The single church bell of Venasque signals evening vespers. It is echoed by bells from distant villages at dusk.

II. Jean and Vincent – Two boys use a large pot and its lid for a drum, singing as they explore the town’s winding streets.

III. The Blue Hour – There is a moment, called l’heure bleue by the French, when the night sounds of bats and crickets stop, and just before the first morning bird erupts in song, when there is an absolute and eerie silence. This piece doesn’t end after its brief andante; the silence is “l’heure bleue.”

IV. The Abbey of Senanque – A meditation inspired by a nearby Cistercian abbey.

V. The Mistral – The relentless and sometimes dangerous wind of Provence, which is said to “purify the heavens.”

VI. Mont Ventoux – The mountain whose white-capped peak is forever coming in and out of sight, sometimes hiding for weeks, and other times dominating the valley with strength and brilliance. Petrarch scaled its summit to proclaim his love for Laura.

Recorded July 21, 2019 at Schroeder Hall, Green Music Center, Sonoma State University. Audio engineer: Anthony Barfield.

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