• Peter Lieberson
  • Three Variations for Violoncello and Piano (1996)

  • Associated Music Publishers Inc (World)
  • vc pf
  • 5 min

Programme Note

Composer Note:
I am happy to have been able to contribute to Judy Goldberg’s project to realize a second series of Goldberg Variations in memory of her husband, Robert.

At first, though, I must confess I was stumped. I didn’t want to compose a five minute mock-Baroque piece, but I also didn’t want to completely ignore the contrapuntal style and process of variation that Bach employed. Then I found a twentieth century solution: I took the six note theme of the Goldberg Variations (the descending line in the bass of the opening Aria, G-F#-E-D-C-B) and combined this with the remaining six notes that make up a complete chromatic scale (Bb-Db-Ab-F-A-Eb, in that order).

My piece opens with the combination of these two collections in the solo piano part: Bach’s “theme” in the lower voice and my complement in the upper voice. A series of brief phrases follow which form the material of the variations themselves.

The first variation is called Neighbor Canons, and is in a quick tempo. There are canons within the cello part and the piano part and between them as well. The second variation is a scherzo which is clearly demarcated by a complete change in texture. Finally, the third variation, aria, begins with a cello solo. A short coda follows this variation with a little quote from the Aria of the original Goldberg Variations.

— Peter Lieberson

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