Variations is a study of and homage to many twentieth century composers. The influences of Webern and Schoenberg are present in the first movement: Webern, explicitly, in the duration and concentration of the movement, and Schoenberg, latently, in the idea of “developing variation.” The latter obtains throughout the entire work, as the ensuing three movements use as their starting points material found in this brief source movement.
The second movement begins with a nearly literal quotation (it is re-orchestrated and one pitch has been altered) from the final movement of Janáček’s second string quartet. Janáček’s two quartets stand beside Bartók’s six as the most significant contributions to the repertoire in the first half of the twentieth century. My movement recalls another early twentieth century composer: it is in a Mahlerian sonata form, in which the exposition is grossly out of proportion to the recapitulation, and the development, while using some material from the introduction and exposition, is dramatically and, largely, thematically its own.
The third movement is a seven-part rondo, and is reminiscent of Bartók’s later quartets in its dense counterpoint and clustered chromatic harmonies. Palindromes (favorite formal schemes of Bartók’s) are seldom absent, as well: the first section of my rondo uses a meter sequence of 7–5–3–1–3–5–7, correlating the entire rondo’s form of A–B–A–C–A–B–A.
The final movement fills a role opposite that of the first. If the first is a source, the final is a repository, of themes developed throughout the course of the work. In this movement, as well, the music of Bartók is referenced (specifically, the slow movement of his fourth quartet.)
The relationships between these four movements may be heard in at least two ways: as a palindrome, where the first and final movements and the second and third are related in their lengths and purposes (the first and final running far shorter than the second and third, and the second and third serving to develop, rather than present and recapitulate, the materials of the work), or as an overlapping structure, where the first and third and the second and fourth are related more explicitly via their recognizable thematic links. This characteristic of the work—to be heard and understood in differing ways—is something I consciously sought.
Variations is dedicated to the memory of Aleksandra Shevelyova, a beautiful girl, charming and bright, the daughter of a dear friend.