Variations without a Theme for symphony orchestra (1962)

Variations without a Theme /excerpt/

Performers: Orkiestra Symfoniczna Filharmonii Narodowej, Witold Rowicki - conductor, "Warsaw Autumn" 17 IX 1962, Polish Composers' Union

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PWM Edition

The piece was commissioned by the Committee for Commissions, Purchases of Works of Art and Art Scholarships at the Ministry of Culture and Art. The composer confirmed its theatrical origins but did not indicate a specific play. The work is scored for large symphony orchestra. 

Its form signalled in the title combines sonorist thinking with traditional syntactic categories (motifs, phrases). The structure of the whole can be described as ABA1B1, with A being an introduction, A1 – a noisy climax of the whole, B and B1 – moments of expressive softening achieved by scaling down the orchestral entries. The general principle of construction is that of presentation of a quasi-improvised theme in the solo part against a background of colour provided by a smaller or larger group of instruments.

The composition suggests Baird’s interest in the variation technique as well as the sonorist technique. It is an important work in his oeuvre, which was not noticed by the critics after the premiere at the 6th Warsaw Autumn in 1962, but was confirmed the following year by its first place at UNESCO’s International Rostrum of Composers in Paris. What testifies to the work unique popularity is its ballet version entitled Hagaromo choreographed by Hyo Takanashi (Tokyo 1967).