• Tristan Keuris
  • Catena: Refrains and Variations for 31 wind instruments, percussion and celesta (1988)

  • Novello & Co Ltd (World)

Commissioned by the Amsterdam Foundation for the Arts on the occasion of the centenary of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra

Commissioned for the occasion of the centenary of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra

  • 2pic.2fl.2ob.ca.2piccl.2cl.bcl.2bsn.cbn/6hn.4tpt.4tb.2tba/timp.5perc/cel
  • 14 min

Programme Note

A request from the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra for a work to mark its centenary enabled Tristan Keuris to fulfil his wish to write a major piece
exploiting the rich variety of character, mood, timbre and sonority of a large body of wind instruments and percussion. His response is a work of enormous range; passages of power and fire alternating with sections of the utmost tranquillity and lyricism: now pungent, now wistful. Catena (Refrains and
Variations for 31 Wind instruments, percussion and celeste) was composed in 1988 and first performed at the Amsterdam Concertgebouw on 12 January 1989.

The shape of the work - Catena is latin for 'chain' - is crucial to the perceived impact of the piece for, though eloquent. it is entirely without gesture;all effects are organically generated from the construction and its resulting tensions. The broad outline is a set of twelve variations interspersed with ritornelli and passaggi, framed by a prelude and postlude and with a concluding coda. Sections dovetail and overlap to form larger groupings that relate to the four movements of a traditional symphony, the slow movement being placed third, with the tension building through the variations, and the ritornelli and passaggi providing moments of release or contrast. Although the groups of variations are free-standing, with their own identity, there is considerable and consistent thematic development running throughout the score, binding the work together and providing an extra structural dimension complementary to the immediate impact of the particular section, yet independent from it. This arrangement performs the twin roles of providing a work full of contrast and unity, and enabling the composer to present a fully satisfying symphonic structure in a little under a quarter of an hour.