Home MusicBiographyPhysics
TricycleSpirituality PicturesLinks 

Cubic Deviations


 from Brahms' Variations and Fugue on a Theme by HandelRobinsons
for Piano Quintet (piano and string quartet)
or Orchestra

October 24, 2022--April 1, 2023; orchestrated April 2--July 26, 2023
Duration: about 27 minutes                cover art by Joseph Groupy, 1743 

Piano Quintet

for Eric Pritchard

Video of premiere performance of the Piano Quintet, August 8, 2023 at Sarah Duke Gardens, Duke University, Durham NC. Eric Pritchard and Anton Miller, violins; Heather Bentley, viola; Elizabeth Anderson, cello; Brandt Fredriksen, piano. Here is the review from CVNC.

MP3 recording         WAV file (CD quality)

Piano Quintet Full Score, letter size (pdf)  (corrected to 8/9/23)   Cover

Piano part, f&b

String parts are in two versions, both letter-size. The first is for either paper or electronic music readers.

Quartet parts for paper, f&b (corrected to 8/9/23)
The second is only for electronic music readers, and has each part enlarged with the other staves reduced. (corrected to 8/9/23)
EMR Violin I Part       EMR Violin II Part

EMR Viola Part           EMR Cello Part

Orchestral Full Score, legal size (pdf)    Cover

Parts, letter size (pdf) f&b

           Brahms as boxer

I finished Violin Concerto No. 2 for Eric Pritchard in  2018, and then a little cello quartet. After that, I found myself mysteriously unable to compose anything for four years. My muse up and left me, and I assumed that I had retired for good. In spring 2022, I started several months of revising old scores, and had three performances of older chamber music. This got me back in the groove, and in October 2022 I started up again, choosing the ensemble that is easiest for me to write for, piano quintet, and the easiest format, a variation on an existing piece. Iíve done such a variation twice before, for Beethovenís Grosse Fuge and for Vivaldi/Bach Concerto for Four Violins/Harpsichords (first movement only). This time I picked Brahmsí Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel for piano. That means that this work is variations on variations on variations, hence the title Cubic Deviations. This piano quintet is the basis of the version for full orchestra.

Handel was in his twenties when he wrote his original theme for harpsichord, and Brahms was 28. At 68, I find it handy to borrow the youthful energy in my dotage.

The instrumentation for the orchestral score is; piccolo, two flutes, oboes, clarinets, and bassoons; four horns, two trumpets, two trombones, bass trombone, tuba, timpani, piano, and strings.

There is a delicate balance in a process like this, where the composition canít be too close to the original, because then itís just a transcription and arrangement, but canít be too far away, because then whatís the point? This piece follows the format of the Brahms original, although I have skipped three of the 25 variations. The initial statement of the theme is very close to Handelís original, with a few curve balls, and may deceive the audience into thinking this is a retrograde exercise in nostalgia. The first deviation should dispel that notion. This is a work of the 21st Century, written in my own style.