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Introduzione - Lento misterioso
Canzonetta - Allegro grazioso
Ninna-Nanna - Cullante
Toccata - Allegro molto e ritmico
Notturno - Lento sostenuto
Valzer - Con moto, grazioso ma un poco ironico
Fanfara - Allegro molto
Interludio - Andante, dolce ed innocente
Fuga - Allegro marcato
The Variations were written in the mid 1950's and are in nine interlinked movements on an original theme which incorporates all twelve notes of the scale. The theme, with its predilection for the interval of a fourth (or its inversion, the fifth) and its strong tonal make-up, is enough to cast aside any comparisons with the serial techniques of Schoenberg, Berg or Webern. For throughout we see the composer making his own rules according to his own ideals of lyricism, tonality and colour.
For example, in the opening three bars we hear the twelve note theme stated in its entirety, although divided into two 'characters'. The first 'character' is more accompanimental in nature, a low introductory statement that quickly develops into an ostinato. Over this soars the second half of the theme and the second 'character' - a lyrical haunting melody three octaves higher. The passage lasts only a few seconds but constitutes one of the most beautiful openings in the twentieth century repertoire.
Throughout the work, the theme is treated in these two ways: soloistic and accompanimental. Both are an integral part of the overall structure - many of the accompanying figures use similar ostinatos or chordal progressions while the second 'character' manifests itself in a plethora of cantabile melodies.
Throughout the work, the theme is treated in these two way: soloistic and accompanimental. Both are an integral part of the overall structure - many of the accompanying figures use similar ostinatos or chordal progressions while the second 'character' manifests itself in a plethora of cantabile melodies.
Each movement is an individual mood poem which together stretch the gamut of emotional experience. They follow each other in a slow-fast-slow pattern and culminate in a masterly fugue which itself progresses from the light and delicate to the powerful and triumphant.
© Christopher Ross
Discography - Variations
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