commissioned by the Schubert Ensemble with financial assistance from South West Arts and the Schubert Ensemble Trust
I Broke off a Golden Branch is scored for the same instrumental ensemble as Schubert's Trout Quintet, and shares one musical feature with it, namely high writing in octaves for the piano. This is not a quotation, but, as I discovered whilst composing the piece, a necessary counterbalance to the excessively bassish sound of the strings.
The piece has two movements, both of which are sets of variations: the first on an original theme, the second on a very transformed version of Croatian folk song, whose word say, roughly:
Yanko slept beneath a poplar
Beneath a golden-branched poplar
I broke off a golden branch
My debt to the traditional music of the Balkan region has been very great, and I began the piece as a sort of homage to this strand in my musical technique. During the period of composition, war broke out in the region I was thinking about, and my musical reflections grew more and more sombre.
I Broke off a Golden Branch was written for the Schubert Ensemble in 1991 and is dedicated to William Howard. The piece was commissioned by the Schubert Ensemble, with the financial assistance of The South West Art Board and the Schubert Ensemble Trust, for a first performance at the 1992 Cheltenham International Festival.
© Judith Weir