Variations

for Cello and Chamber Ensemble

David Crumb

Rental
Publisher: Theodore Presser Company
Print Status: Rental

Quick Overview

I have, in the past, often contemplated writing a substantial work for the cello, as it is my primary instrument. So it was with great enthusiasm that I began composing "Variations". The opportunity to write for an artist of the stature of Lynn Harrell added a whole new dimension to the project. For one thing, I had to take care that I did not write for the instrument based solely on my own technical limitations. And while I wanted to produce a truly virtuoso work, I did not want to do so at the expense of musicality. Furthermore, I did not want to write in the genre of a traditional concerto, a form that seems dated to me. In the end, I decided on a fairly non-traditional theme and variations, a form that seemed suited to the development of the musical materials I was working with.

In the work, the variations are not overtly sectional, but tend to elide into one another, creating the sense of a large one-movement form. The form is also shaped by the gradual emergence of the solo cello as an independent voice. In the initial variations the soloist tends to play against the backdrop of a large instrumental texture and is more or less integrated into it. As the work progresses, the cello becomes increasingly soloistic until it breaks free of the ensemble altogether in Variation VII (which is, in fact, a cadenza). Much of the music of the variations is generated from a single chord (diatonic cluster) which is introduced near the beginning of the theme. The sonority is clearly reminiscent of the opening of Bartok?s String Quartet No. 4, one of my favorite works.

In "Variations", as in most of my other compositions, I am primarily interested in working with tonal materials. I am always striving for a strong sense of comprehensibility in my music, something which I feel is lost in many styles of our century. But, unlike some composers who are now writing in a tonal idiom, I am uninterested in merely reiterating past styles, or crossing over into the popular genres. I believe in breaking new ground, but, in doing so, mending some of the broken threads which link music of our time to music of the past.

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Additional Information

Commission Commission Information: Los Angeles Philharmonic, with assistance from the Timothy Christopher Ware Getty Foundation
Composition Date 1993
Duration 00:20:00
Orchestration Solo Vcl.; 2(Picc. A.Fl.) 1(E.H.) 1(Eb) 1 - 1 0 0 0; 2Perc. Pno. Hp. 2Vln. Vla. Vcl. Cb.
Premiere May 17, 1993. Lynn Harrell, cello, and the Los Angeles Philharmonic New Music Group; Japan-America Theater, Los Angeles, CA.