Obliques, a short work in a single movement, was completed in the summer of 1958 when I was at the Tanglewood Summer School of Music in the USA. It was first performed on the 8th January 1959 by the BBC SSO, conducted by Colin Davies.
The title is that of a poem by Maurice Lindsay which provided the starting point for the work. Basically it takes the form of a theme and variations, but with the unusual feature that the flow of the variations is twice interrupted by an interlude. The work culminates in a short finale combining elements of both theme and interlude.
The dramatic idea, suggested by the poem with its question-answer form, was this balance between the 'questioning' dynamic elements of the theme as developed in the variations and the contrasting calm 'answers' which have the effect of turning the 'question' in different directions.
© Thea Musgrave