• Peter Lieberson
  • Lalita, Chamber Variations (1984)

  • Associated Music Publishers Inc (World)
  • fl(pic), ob, cl(bcl), hn, perc, pf, vn, va, vc, db
  • 18 min

Programme Note

Composer Note:

When I first began thinking of a new piece, the title Lalita immediately occurred to me. Lalita is a Sanscrit word meaning “passionate sport” or “play,” perhaps similar to Jeux. Such titles rarely come to me and it is for this reason that I paid special attention to the meaning of the word and the atmosphere of its sound. I decided to risk in using it, the inevitable association with that notorious sixteen-year-old girl who is a manifestation of a particularly kind of lalita in any case, though certainly one of the more confusing ones.

The notion of variations suggested itself as I began to work. Lalita is in two parts, each composed of eight variations. After an introduction by the strings presenting the unformed material of the work, there immediately follows the “theme” in the four winds. Two easily recognizable aspects of the theme are these: first a three-note motto initially stated as a G rising a major sixth, then an E in the flute descending a minor sixth to a G sharp heard in the bass clarinet. It is stated in a characteristic rhythm throughout the work. Secondly, the third and last phrase of the theme which consists of highly accented and repeated notes, a gesture that surfaces throughout the piece as well, concluding groups of variations, the end of Part One and the climax of Part Two.

In Part One after the theme is presented, the eight ensuing variations are grouped as 3 2 3. The first three introduce the rest of the ensemble. The next two begins with a violin solo restating and transforming the theme, and the final are scherzo, beginning with the trio of bass clarinet, horn and double-bass. Part Two groups 4 + 4 variations, the first four for solo instruments, the last for the whole ensemble. A short coda defuses the material back into the atmosphere of the introduction.

Despite my giving in to the temptation of writing too much when less might be prudent, I am still certain that the music can be enjoyed without being able to follow each variation and transformation. For myself, the variation principle was a personal anchor in responding to the different and often unpredictable musical “winds” that arose. Lalita is dedicated to three important women in my life, my wife Ellen and my two young daughters Katherine and Kristina.

—Peter Lieberson