Program notes

Twelve Variations for piano duet, opus 57 (1997)


Twelve Variations for piano duet (that is, one piano with two performers) is a work of about 12 minutes duration and was composed for Stephen Emmerson and Bernard Lanskey in 1997 with commission funding from the Music Board of the Australia Council for the Arts. Stephen and Bernard gave the work its first performance at the Eugene Goossens Hall in Sydney in August 1997. The work was composed in early 1997 at the Schultz family home in Keiraville, a suburb of Wollongong.

Composer’s Note

Twelve Variations takes as its subtitle the expression marking from the Variations movement of Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 30 in E Major, Opus 109: “Gesangvoll, mit innigster Empfindung.” Literally, ‘songful with inner feeling’. The subtitle suggests an internalised depth and calmness of expression as well as the presence of an ‘inner line’ in the musical texture. This idea of ‘the inner’ is also captured visually in my work by the ways the four hands of the performers often overlap and reach over each other.

Variation form has continually attracted me as it seems to offer an imaginative way to interpret and develop an idea within a listener-attuned sound world. The idea in Twelve Variations is the gradual expansion of the music from a spacious, gentle melody to richer and more textured worlds drawing on an ambiguity of structure where the discontinuity of variation form is offset by a larger dramatic shape.

The brief quote from the Beethoven fragment, with its perpetually hovering harmony and unresolvable trills, is not heard clearly until the climax of the work. The idea, as in other of my works, was to attempt to find a seamless way to incorporate this fragment so that it appears naturally as both a new expression and something familiar.

© Andrew Schultz, 2011