Imagining a work in terms of the performers’ individual characters played a role in the conception of Cotidales (2001) for piano and string quartet, but there are also broader references. Here, the title refers to the marine notion of co-tidal lines: that is, the forces within tidal currents that lead to various geographic points having high tides at the same time. This is an intriguing notion in relation to medium of the piano quintet, which is notorious for driving an acoustic wedge between the equal-tempered tuning of the piano, and the more ‘just’, natural intonation of the strings (in extreme cases, one has the impression that the opposing forces are performing in separate rooms).
The composer describes the work in terms of “four very distinctive sections where the whole ensemble plays”, interspersed with others where only one or two players come to the fore: the pairing of cello and piano after the introductory section is a clear instance of the latter. Throughout the work, the piano leads a sort of double life: sometimes as an instrument whose timbres are primarily defined by activities in the piano interior (muted notes, or glissandi across the strings), yet also, in increasing measure, as a ‘keyboard virtuoso’, with references back to, for example, the radical Bartók of the Second Piano Concerto. But ultimately, the listener is likely to experience the work not so much in terms of delineated sections as (appropriately!) of broad tidal sweeps.
– Richard Toop