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Brahms Begins The Day

For Symphony Orchestra

12,36 €
Version numérique (+0,00 €) à télécharger
Version papier (+14,80 € impression et livraison ). Colissimo7-14 days aprox.
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Estimated Duration
6 - 10min

ISMN : 979-0-2325-4693-3

Notes sur cette pièce
Commissioned by Radio Telefís Éireann National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland. When I was a child there was a copy of “The Oxford Companion to Music” on the shelf (1937 eedition edited by Percy A Scholes) which was my reference for all things musical. I was always particularly intrigued by the drawings and illustrations by “Batt”. One in particular stood out: that of a  elderly gentleman stooped over a coffee-stove, a cup in one hand as the other reached for the machine, a smoking cigar protruding from the beard, the waistcoat giving little support to the pot-belly which hung over the belt. It was called “Brahms Begins the Day”. The caption described how the composer rose at 5:00am, and made his own coffee because no-one else could make it strong enough. He drank the brew apparently accompanied by an “equally strong cigar, the first of many throughout the day” (although no mention was made that Brahms subsequently died of cancer).


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...?

Flute (3)|Oboe (2)|English Horn|Clarinet (3)|Trumpet (3)|Trombone (3)|Tuba|Percussions|Harp|Violin (10)|Violin (12)|Viola |Viola (10)|Double bass (4)|Timpani|Bassoon (3)|Horn (French Horn) (4)|Cello (8)|English Horn|Symphonic orchestra
Score Details
Format - A4 / US Letter
Pages - 36

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