Variations and Theme

Version for String Quartet

(1996)
Commissioned by the Manfred Quartet, an Oberlin Conservatory string quartet of which my son, Matthew, was first violinist, and premiered at Oberlin in 1996. “Variations and Theme” is so titled because the theme — a Benedictine plainsong, “Adoro devote” — comes at the end (a form I find more interested than the traditional “theme and variations”).
 
This is the first of many pieces for which I used the Fibonacci sequence — a series of numbers in which each number is the sum of the previous two: 0 1 1 2 3 5 8 13… — as a structural factor, primarily, in this piece, for meters and number of measures in each variation. For example: The first variation metric pattern (all with a half-note beat) is 1+1, 2, 3, 5, 8; 1+1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13; 8, 5, 3, 2, 1+1; 5, 3, 2 1+1 plus a “zero” measure for a total of 21 measures. Ultimately these patterns are not specifically discernible to the listener, but I believe the coherence of the structure informs how the music “breathes.”
 
Or that’s all hooey, and it’s just a conceit of the composer to give some logical purpose to deciding the eternal compositional question: What comes next?
 

See version for Brass Quintet here.

See version for String Orchestra here.

Audio Excerpt

Instrumentation
Duration
14:12
Premiere
Oberlin College, Oberlin OH, March 1996

Manfred Quartet: Matthew Albert & Sarah Shellman, violins; Courtney Sedgwick, viola; Daniel Levitov, cello
Commission
Matthew Albert
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