The violet and the vine

by Matthew Whittall

for viola and harpsichord

Empty sheet

Matthew Whittall

The violet and the vine


The title of this piece, from Edgar Allan Poe’s The City in the Sea,
was suggested to me many years ago by a gambist friend who was taken
with the chain of vivid images in one particular line: “The viol, the
violet, and the vine”. Having the viol present physically, my main
concern was at first the musical realization of the intertwining of
vines and friezes on stone structures, as described by Poe. The piece
opens with a long, halting solo for the viol, its breath-like tones
slowly becoming a descending lament. Its sinuous line writhes around and
through static chords in the harpsichord, much like the ivy creeping up
Poe’s stone towers. Although I’d intended to keep my distance from the
Gothic world of the poem, Poe’s central theme of a decaying city ruled
by death, slowly sinking into watery oblivion, was a powerful one.
Perhaps inevitably, the piece took on shades of the humanitarian crisis
unfolding on Europe’s southern shores at the time, bringing out a tone
of pursuit, obsessive, elegiac reflection, and ultimately despair as it
sinks into the depths.


gamba [bass viol], cemb


Chamber Works

Commisioned by / dedications

Commissioned by and dedicated to Varpu Haavisto and Assi Karttunen

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