Melon Variations by Malcolm Smith

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Melon Variations On A Theme By Alfred Schnittke On The Name B-A-C-H for piano (2000) 1'50"

A tribute to many of my friends

The full title of this crazy piece explains it all: an increasingly deranged series of variations which starts innocently enough, and begins and ends in C-Major. It is a classic example of the wisdom that as a musician, so long as you get the beginning and ending correct, whatever you do in the middle, the audience will still applaud.

The piece started life as one of my planned series of Fruit Sonatas, a set of miniatures conceived as an antidote to spending five years writing my Flute Sonata. Since I adore cantaloupe melons so, it was one of the first to be completed. In a sort of synaethesiac kind of way, I try to correlate taste and mood: sharp citrus for spiky strings, etc. Ideas for other pieces include:

Like many composers before me, in this Melon piece I obsess over the letters of the olde master's name B-A-C-H, which in the German system of note names, translate to the musical notes B-flat, A, C, B-natural. Alfred Schnittke also used this in many of his works (so I also used it in my Homage to him). For reasons which will become apparent, I transpose up a tone the waltz theme from his Quintett, and go one dimension further into dizzy realms of pure harmonic poetry.

The result is a virtuosic tour-de-force, which in theory might be playable by one pianist, as that is what it was originally written for, but in practice... it will take lots of practice. I was once foolhardy enough to attempt it as a duet performance with the talented Peter Wiegold, at a concert following his Introduction To Composing course at Dartington Summer School. He miraculously sightread the impossibly difficult right hand part while I stumbled erroneously through the comparatively trivial left hand chords. Our kind audience even clapped when we somehow reached the final C-Major chord together! But the recording was horribly distorted and my playing shameful, so at some point I really should practice it up properly and do it justice now I can do multitrack recordings and infinite retakes+overdubs.

[Scores and recordings will eventually be available]

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike v3.0 Licence © The right to copy is left with the user copyleft Malcolm Smith 2011-06-11 - last updated 2011-06-11