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Brahms Begins The Day
ISMN : 979-0-2325-4693-3
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I often wondered what was he working on at the time, as though the drawing was an actual photograph. This commission from the NSOI gave me the impetus to do a little research. I discovered that this had to be sometime in the late 1860’s (because of the location in Brahms’ apartment in Vienna). Presumably then, the First symphony was in the throes of its (particularly long) gestation (it took him 14 years from 1862 til 1876). Curiously, though, in the drawing by Batt there is no sign of Beethoven looking over Brahms shoulder as Grumpy Old Joe asserted was happening at the time...Maybe he couldn’t stand the smoke...
So here, commissioned by the RTE National Symphony Orchestra, is my homage to Brahms: a passacaglia (in honour of the great mans contribution to the genre) whose theme is built from the letters of his name ciphered onto a chromatic scale, and altered for musical effect. The time signature is in 7 in deference to Brahms’ folk-music settings, not because he did anything in 7 (he didn’t that I am aware of), but because my own tastes in folk-music lie farther East in Bulgaria (where 7 is commonplace, if not common-time) and not in Hungary, as was the case with Brahms.
Listeners with active imaginations will impart a narrative significance, I’m sure, to each variation, but there is none, (well, actually there is one...) and when the passacaglia finally dissolves, what almost emerges during the last, very long (2 minutes) variation is...?
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