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Stradivariazioni is a theme and variations, with each variation cast in the form of a character piece. Instead of a single theme, three themes—or “ciphers”—are presented in the ‘Tema (con amici)’ (Theme (with friends)). A musical cipher translates letters of the alphabet into musical notes which are then represented as melodies (or harmonies). The B–A–C–H cipher (Bb, A, C and B-natural in German usage) first used by Bach himself, is perhaps the most famous. The three ciphers in Stradivariazioni are derived from the surnames of those who inspired the piece: Antonio Stradivari, Martin Riseley and Diedre Irons. Throughout the work the ciphers are manipulated and appear in varying permutations. Though not always immediately recognisable, the assorted combinations of the ciphers provide a sense of coherence and intimate relationship between the five variations.
The individual variations encompass the names of actual Stradivarius violins which are still in existence today. In each variation I have attempted to capture the essence of either the physical attributes (the colour of the varnish, individual details of scrollwork and sound quality, for example) or the given name and historical background of the violin.
Commissioned by Martin Riseley and Diedre Irons for their 2011 national tour of New Zealand with funding support from Chamber Music New Zealand.
Tema “Stradivari”, con amici
Var. I: Le Rossignol: Andante notturno
Var. II: Firebird: Allegro Scherzando
Var. III: Le Messie: Adagio
Var. IV: Red Diamond
Var. V: Alard: Vivo
13 Jun 2011: Performed by Martin Riseley (violin) and Diedre Irons (piano) at Expressions, in Upper Hutt.
23 Aug 2013: In House: NZSM Lunchtime Concert