• John McCabe
  • Star-Preludes (1978)

  • Novello & Co Ltd (World)

First UK performance at Wigmore Hall, London on 17 January 1979

  • pfvn
  • 15 min

Programme Note

(for Violin and Piano)

Star-Preludes was written for Erich Gruenberg, and he and I gave the first performance in Schoenberg Hall, Los Angeles, in April 1978.

Though the title might seem to indicate otherwise, it is in fact one continuous piece, the various sections of which are played without a break. Each section has its own character, but the whole work derives from certain common ideas stated in the opening movement. The idea of the work started with the consideration of stars whirling about in space, and the titles of each section were added after the work was completed, much as the titles of Debussy’s Preludes for piano were added after composition.

In some cases, e.g. the last two sections, the names of the stars are printed backwards, since the music is in some way a retrograde or much reduced version of similar music heard earlier – in this connection, one might note that sections 3, 4 and 5 are related to the idea of the star Sirius and its travelling companion, a white dwarf (i.e. a dying star) around which it revolves. The titles of the sections and their tempo markings are:

Lento (Pleiades…) - Andantino (Andromeda…)
Vivo (Sirius) - Andante lirico (White Dwarf…)
Vivo (…suiriS) - Lento, come prima (…sedaielP)

© John McCabe