“The Witches of Vardø,” for unaccompanied violin, is a tribute to the ninety-some women and men accused of witchcraft in northernmost Norway during the 17th century. The piece references many musical tropes representing the supernatural, including tritones, galloping rhythms, and a recurring three-note melodic motive. At the piece’s climax, there is a brief foray into the folk music of Norway with a setting of the traditional “Fanitullen,” or Devil’s Tune. In contrast, the piece’s ending references the pure tone of the Baroque violin to represent the innocence of those accused.
“The Witches of Vardø” was commissioned by violinist Robert Simonds, to whom it is dedicated.
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