Publisher: Novello & Co
Vitalitas Variations (1957),
originally titled 'Piano Variations', now named after ballet premiered in Mexico in 1959
Novello & Co Ltd
version for orchestra
The Vitalitas Variations were composed in April 1957 at Lytham, Lancashire, during my final year at Cambridge University. The work extends the type of mosaic form I had studied in the music of Satie and juxtaposes a variety of contrasted moods and textures, sometimes violently.
When I was living in New York in 1958 I gave a tape of this work, along with some other pieces, to the Mexican choreographer Gloria Contreras. When I next saw her she said she had spent three days and nights choreographing the Variations for ballet. As Vitalitas it became one of her most frequently performed ballets and has been seen regularly throughout South and Central America, often with her own company the Taller Coreografico de la Universidad of Mexico City. Vitalitas was first staged at the Teatro del Bosque in 1960 in the orchestral version, but it has almost always been done with piano since then.
Because of the connection with dance and in appreciation of Gloria Contreras' intensely individual ballet, the work is now called Vitalitas Variations. The sections, played continuously are:
1. Con Moto: motifs presented in fragmentary form, like a contents page.
2. Andante: a slow chorale interrupted by repeated notes.
3. Allegretto: a more rapid context for the fragments.
4. Lento: development of the repeated notes.
5. Moderato: explosive juxtapositions.
6. Andante: introduction and aria, which is interrupted and never completed.
7. Lento: atmospherics in a continuous sostenuto.
8. Vivace: rapid passages in varied metres lead to the fullest statement of the opening fragment, followed by soft reminiscences of others and a sudden ending.
The earliest performances of this work, in Cambridge, New York and Edinburgh were given by the composer.
© Peter Dickinson
Peter Dickinson (piano)