Commissioned by the London Sinfonietta for the Stockhausen Festival at the Barbican Centre, London, and first performed on 16 October 2001.

  • hp/str/tape
  • 9 min

Programme Note

When commissioned by the Barbican to compose a short work to be premiered by the London Sinfonietta as part of the elektronic festival, Armstrong decided he wanted to write a meditative piece for strings, suitable to end the second half of a concert. After re-viewing Visconti's film Death in Venice, in particular the static opening scene of the lagoon, he decided to base his new piece around the opening bars of the Adagietto from Mahler's Fifth Symphony (as used in the film's soundtrack).

'In a sense, this piece belongs to the time-honoured tradition of reworking,rearranging or 'taking as a starting point' a piece written by a composer from another generation, and in that sense this is really a set of variations. However, one of the main structural characteristics in Visconti involves an electronic development that leads to a gentle, blurred tonality. At this point, the orchestra, in contrast, becomes more tonal, eventually restating the opening bars, recently worked with Baz Luhrmann on Moulin Rouge. I hope this piece can be viewed as a homage to Gustav Mahler and Luchino Visconti.