Three Musketeers: A play for instruments
In 2015, From the Top commissioned a new musical work from alum Michael Thurber, that would feature the next generation of classical musicians. His concerto, “The Three Musketeers: A play for instruments” premiered on From the Top’s live recording at Interlochen Center for the Arts on March 13. Excerpts from this piece will be broadcast on NPR’s From the Top with Host Christopher O’Riley the week of April 20.
See a video about the making of The Three Musketeers below, and read on to learn more about the piece.
Program Notes by Composer Michael Thurber
This piece is based off of the opening of the novel, The Three Musketeers
D’Artagnan is a brash young man from a poor family in Gascony, a little town in the countryside of France. He is filled with bravado and dreams of becoming a Musketeer in Paris one day. He sets out on a journey to Paris with the goal of finding the Musketeers and becoming one of them. When he arrives in Paris, he quickly learns that the Musketeers have been abolished by the evil Cardinal and there are only three Musketeers left that now operate as ‘rogues’, still fighting to preserve and protect the beliefs of King Louis. D’Artagnan goes running through the marketplace trying to find them. Unknowingly, he bumps into each of them, one at a time. He gets in arguments with all three of them separately. Flustered and in a hurry, he winds up challenging each of them to duels at 1 o’clock. When 1 o’clock comes, all three of the Musketeers show up for their duels with D’Artagnan and are obviously surprised to see one and other there. They are impressed by how brave this young man is to have challenged them all to duels, but are never the less prepared to follow through and duel him. Just as they begin fighting, the Cardinal’s guards show up and begin to attack the Musketeers for dueling illegally. D’Artagnan jumps in and fights sidebyside with them and helps lead the Musketeers to victory over the Cardinal’s men. Afterwards, all three of the Musketeers are impressed by D’Artagnan and welcome him to join them on their journeys.
HOW THE PIECE WORKS
The musical play will depict this plot. Each of the four characters will be represented by one of the soloists…
The central character of the piece, d’Artagnan is a young, impoverished Gascon nobleman who comes to make his fortune in Paris. He is brave, noble, ambitious, crafty, and intelligent. Like any Romantic hero, he is driven by love and ruled by chivalry, but occasionally prone to fall into amoral behavior.
Our violinist is Charles Yang.
Piano: Musketeer 1, Aramis
Aramis is a handsome young man, quiet and somewhat foppish. He constantly protests that he is only temporarily in the Musketeers, and that any day now he will return to the Church to pursue his true calling as a man of faith. Despite this, Aramis has many mysterious mistresses.
Our pianist is Kris Bowers.
Clarinet: Musketeer 2, Porthos
Porthos is loud, brash, and self-important. He loves to eat and is always drunk. He is extremely vain, and enjoys outfitting himself handsomely; but for all that, he is a valiant fighter and a courageous friend. He is the extrovert of the group.
Our clarinetist is Mark Dover.
Bass: Musketeer 3, Athos
Athos is something of a father figure to d’Artagnan. He is older than his comrades. Athos is distinguished in every wayintellect, appearance, bravery, swordsmanship, yet he is tortured by a deep melancholy, the source of which is heart break from a lover that betrayed him.
Our bassist is me, Michael Thurber.
Just as each of the characters in the novel has a distinct personality, each of the soloists represent unique musical personalities that differ in genre, pace, and style. I have composed each movement of the piece to ‘fit like a glove’ for each soloist. Their parts are all custom composed to fit them specifically and highlight what they do best.
Musically, D’Artagnan (violin) threads each movement together, always trying to butt in and be a part of The Musketeers (bass, clarinet, piano).