Winter Variations


Solo Guitar
Recorded on Doberman-Yppan CD Brian Head
First performance: July 2006 Brian Head, Los Angeles, CA

Program notes: 

I composed Winter Variations (2006) as a complement to The Falcon’s Eye (1999-2000), a set of twelve relatively brief preludes for guitar. Winter Variations, by contrast, is cast in a single movement lasting about twenty minutes.  The inspiration for the piece has two layers: first, it is an extended response to one particular prelude in The Falcon’s Eye entitled Bells in Winter.  The bells are represented by a number of natural harmonics, and a rather lonely melodic idea is prominent.  In Winter Variations the actual bells are different – a set of three widely spaced chords which first appear in measure 48 – and the brief melody used as a theme is different as well. Still, the piece feels to me like an extended soliloquy on that prelude, and to a certain extent on the entire set of preludes in The Falcon’s Eye.  Acknowledgement of the second layer of inspiration is in the titles of both pieces.  There is a poem called Encounter in Czeslaw Milosz’s book of poems called Bells in Winter.  Both titles, of the prelude and the variations, pay homage to this book of poems.  The feel of the poem Encounter - its tone, mood, landscape, language – also affect both pieces, as well as an earlier work I composed for orchestra called Antiphonies.  Here is the poem:

Encounter by Czeslaw Milosz

We were riding through frozen fields in a wagon at dawn.

A red wing rose in the darkness.

And suddenly a hare ran across the road.

One of us pointed to it with his hand.

That was long ago.  Today neither of them is alive,

Not the hare, nor the man who made the gesture.

O my love, where are they, where are they going

The flash of a hand, streak of movement, rustle of pebbles.

I ask not out of sorrow, but in wonder.

Winter Variations was completed in the winter of 2006 and is dedicated to guitarist and composer Brian Head.

     - Donald Crockett