Quixotic Variation

Title: Quixotic Variation

Instrumentation: Clarinet, Violin, Viola, Cello

Program Notes:

Quixotic Variation is a set of 6 variations (plus Introduction and Finale) that form a conversation between triadic/tonal elements and atonal elements. The Introduction introduces all of the material that is developed throughout the piece.  The pitches of the first 7 bars spell out the tone row (F, A, Ab, D, G, C#, F#, E, B, Eb, C, Bb) that is used to generate tones and motives.  The Theme is then stated in the clarinet.  It contains two statements of the tone row (on F and Ab) with a repeat of the first two notes of each iteration to add a little hint of a tonal centre.  Variation I is simply an augmentation of the rhythms of the theme presented in the cello.  Above this is an imitative countermelody (based on the thematic motives) started by the clarinet that serves as B in the free Sonata Form in which the piece is set (A is the theme). Variation II has the theme set as a slightly mischievous waltz.  The variation then goes on to develop this waltz.  Variation III builds on the tremolo idea from the beginning.  It is the most abstract variation.  The first section is a growing pattern representing the intervals in the row followed by six pulses.  The second section reflects the number of each type of interval in the theme, separated by interjections from the clarinet.  The pitches in both these sections are simply the two hexachords (pitches 1-6 and 7-12) from the F-version of the tone row.  Variation IV takes and explores each part of the theme five notes at a time.  It also expands upon the parabolic register motion of the Introduction.  The clarinet is excluded until the very highest point of the variation. Variation V has the strings playing an angry sul ponticello version of the theme (beginning on C) whilst the clarinet dances around the motives that were explored in the previous variation.  Variation VI contains a fugal exposition.  The subject is a variant on the B theme.  The countersubject is created from alternate notes in the tone row (which is a motive from Bach).  This variation is conclusive as it contains elements from all of the previous variations.  The Finale concludes the piece with a partial statement of the theme.  The last chord – a C9 with an Eb in the base represents a more fleshed out version of the chord that begins the piece – F, A, and Ab.  This symmetry releases the tension caused by the tonal/atonal conflict throughout the piece and argues for a combination, rather than separation.

First Performed: 2005