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Morton Gould

Publisher: G. Schirmer

Jekyll and Hyde Variations (1956)
G&C Music Corporation
Sub Category
Large Orchestra
Year Composed
22 Minutes
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Programme Note
Morton Gould Jekyll and Hyde Variations (1956)
This work represents a phase of my output that reflects the serial techniques in my own terms. The Jekyll and Hyde alludes to the duality and ambivalence of the human character and of these musical variations, rather than the literal Robert Louis Stevenson story line. The form of the work is a dramatic Prologue and thirteen Fantastic (“Schizophrenic”) variations. They contain variants within themselves in mood and texture, with “split” musical personalities. The opening theme itself, played by the violins, is a back-to-back design – the second half the reverse of the first half. Following the thematic Prologue, the variations, of varying length, go one into the other without pause except for the next to last, Variation XII. Here, after a convulsive and piercing climax, there is a held silence, followed by a brief and final aftermath. As a general guide the variations are broadly described as follows:

Variation I: Contemplative. Horns and low brass, chorale-like. Conflicting tensions suggest “birth-pangs” of what follows.

Variation II. Playful. This begins with a sudden surge, evolving into a brisk movement with high and low trills against scampering woodwinds and pizzicato figures. It dissolves into…

Variations III. Restful. Gentle and lyrical, almost a lullaby.

Variation IV. Restless. Fast and playful but with ominous overtones.

Variation V. Tender. Tender and introspective, strings joined by winds in a rhapsodic pattern that amounts to a section of variants within variants.

Variation VI. Menacing. Low strings, ponticello (over the bridge), mysterious, fast moving.

Variation VII. Aggressive. Rough and aggressive, utilizing low strings and brass. It fades into…

Variation VIII. Jaunty. Sardonic and jazzy.

Variation IX. Mysterious. Relatively brief and atmospheric with a gradual crescendo to a declamatory passage.

Variation X. Intense. Lyrical and sustained, dissolving into…

Variation XI. Frenetic. A continuation of the foregoing, but taking a restless trend to…

Variation XII. Orgiastic. Intense and pulsating, building to a climax marked “headlong and frenetic”, which is abruptly terminated.

Variation XIII. Elegiac. An aftermath of the preceding, dying away, while recalling, in fragmented form, preceding variations.

--Morton Gould

  • Ensemble
    Nashville Symphony
    James F. Neal, narrator
    Kenneth Schermerhorn
The Jekyll and Hyde Variations were written for Mitropoulos and the New York Philharmonic, and premiered in 1957. Mitropoulos asked for a serious work so Gould decided to go outside his accustomed territory and used a 12-note row... Gould said of the Variations: “If people say ‘What reflects Morton Gould the most?’ they would pick the more obvious pieces, American Salute and so forth. Yet I think this expresses me.” Gould was a complex character and the Variations reveal his inner conflict. Schermerhorn makes out the best case for both sides of Gould in this enterprising coupling.
Peter Dickinson, Gramophone,01/01/0001
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