Variants for violin and piano was written for the senior recital of De Paul student, Craig Sorgi. It is inspired by two melodic materials, an Indian raga and a tone row. While both are used more as repositories of sonic ideas rather than strictly, the piece attempts to preserve the mood, or aura of the raga: a sense of melancholy, sometimes gentle, sometimes intense, for the rainy season. The original raga is altered, although its treatment in the beginning of the work is somewhat like an improvised variation in East Indian style. The prepared piano gives an exotic, oriental touch, adding microtonal pitches and percussive timbres. The piece is ‘tonal’ in a broad sense, since ragas are ‘tonal,’ and the row itself is actually a structural abstraction from the altered raga. The work is essentially a variation form, but the ‘theme’ in the traditional meaning of this formal design is not present as a theme. Rather, the raga/row is the ‘theme’ that is varied.
Variant I Lento, lamentevole is for piano only, beginning on a low plucked B-flat and introducing the beginning of the raga, sounding like the pitches of a whole tone scale:
Bb E C F#. Variant II, Un piu allegretto ma con una tenerézza triste e desolata, also begins with a plucked Bb in the piano, followed by a pizzicato melody in the violin.
In Variant III, Allegretto ritmico, the violin continues similarly, but the piano part becomes energized with sixteenth-note patterns enlivened by grace notes, followed by rapid thirty-second notes in the violin on set .
Variant IV, Intensivo, begins with the piano loudly playing sonorities built from the row, before the violin enters. The loud piano sonorities continue throughout.
Variant V, Irrequieto, nervoso, involves rapid, disjunct melodic gestures in the violin and random pitches plucked inside the piano.
Variant VI, Triste, continues the soaring melodic gesture heard in Variant IV before moving to graceful repeating patterns in frame notation, extremely soft, like a gentle rain.
In Variant VII, Tranquillo, quasi doloroso, an extemely soft violin melody of minor seconds is accompanied by seemingly random plucked low B-flats and high perfect fifths, B – F#. At the coda, the violin plays very high harmonics, A F# D Bb, as if in slow motion, while the piano plays various pitches, also randomly spaced, on the keys and plucked inside. During the piece the raga and row are intertwined, embellished, varied, fragmented and in the last Variant, finally disintegrated.
- Inside piano technique/no bar lines/performer interaction
- Piano is to be prepared by placing felt strips between the strings of all keys from Bb3 to G#5
- Further instructions to the performers included in score
- new edition 2019 from 1981 original composition
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