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John Harbison

Publisher: AMP

Diamond Watch (Double Play for Two Pianos) (2010)
Associated Music Publishers Inc
Solo Keyboard(s)
Year Composed
12 Minutes
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Programme Note
John Harbison Diamond Watch (Double Play for Two Pianos) (2010)
Robert Levin and Ya-Fei Chuang, pianos
MIT, Cambridge, MA
April 30, 2010

Composer Note:
Diamond Watch was fun to write, a piece for an occasion I envisioned as enjoyable, with cherished performers, attentive listeners, and a location I've grown to love even for its acoustics, Kresge Auditorium at MIT.

The dedicatee, Peter Diamond, is one of the world's sovereign economists, but his other interests include baseball. I got to thinking about the various intersections between games, statistics, musical shapes, rules, frames, and predictions, and began imagining a series of variations.

In my favorite kind of variation the "theme" itself is not overtly stated. This is the idea of the baroque passacaglias: the bass and its harmony are the real source. Bach's Goldberg Variations and his solo violin Chaconne proceed this way, as does Corelli's La Folia.

I have previously written shadow-theme variations on a large scale, for violin, clarinet and piano, and quite brief, in my second piano sonata (for Robert Levin). This one is somewhere between those in duration, about twelve minutes. The movement titles offer a heavy hint as to the origin of the ground.

One amusing aspect of the piece more available to the performers than the listeners is the graphic representation of diamonds in the variation called "Diamond daze." I think of it as an analogy to the representation of the dedicatees as part of the composition in Renaissance paintings and, as such, an acknowledgement of Kate Diamond's keen participation in the conception of this project (Kate was for many years a Curatorial Associate at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston).

Diamond Watch was commissioned by Priscilla (Kate) Myrick Diamond as a birthday present for Peter Diamond, and in honor of his retirement from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, for a first performance by Robert Levin and Ya-Fei Chuang at Kresge Auditorium on April 30, 2010.

1. Leading off
2. Taking a pitch
3. Low and inside
4. High and outside

5. On deck circle
6. Making contact
7. Stealing a base
8. Diamond daze

9. Ahead on the count
10. Swinging for the fences
11. Stroking a hit
12. Walkoff

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