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Variations on an Australian theme : for piano

by John Spence (2014)

Variations on an Australian theme


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Variations on an Australian theme : for piano / John Spence.

Library shelf no. 786.2/SPE 5 [Available for loan]

Work Overview

Variations on an Australian Theme is a dramatic work for solo piano composed for the Gallipoli landing centenary. It sets the scene of 1915 with a number of references to popular and classical music from the year 1915 including a patriotic song called Australia Will Be There. As the drama unfolds, enthusiasm and energy is expressed through a range of piano styles from the war era including ragtime and blues. While there are no direct quotes the playing style of Art Tatum and Oscar Peterson help create a period drama setting, combined with more contemporary harmonic and rhythmic expression.
The piece also consists of a range of variations based on the Australian song Along the Road to Gundagai. The song is not heard in a recognisable sense but the melodic contour of the song becomes the subject material for variations. Nostalgia turns to fear in the latter section of the piece with dramatic arpeggios alongside fast atonal sequences depict frightened scurrying. The piece concludes with a solemn reflection of the central theme of Along the Road To Gundagai.

Work Details

Year: 2014

Instrumentation: Piano : requires a grand piano with a sostenuto pedal.

Duration: 20 min.

Difficulty: Advanced

Dedication note: Dedicated to Martin Wesley-Smith

Commission note: Commissioned with funds provided by Australia Council.

First performance: by John Spence at John Spence: Variations (Wollongong Art Gallery) on 25 Apr 2015

The composer notes the following styles, genres, influences, etc assocaited with this work:
The music of Martin Wesley-Smith has been an important influence. Other influences include all the great composers of piano music including Liszt, Prokofiev, Stravinsky, Ligeti, Sculthorpe and Vine.


Performances of this work

25 Apr 2015: at John Spence: Variations (Wollongong Art Gallery). Featuring John Spence.

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