Variations for Judith

Pianistic tributes to Judith Serota from 11 composers

Author: 
Jed Distler

Variations for Judith

  • Bist du bei mir
  • (Spitalfields Echoes)
  • Loose Canon for Jude
  • Diomedes
  • To Judith, from Judith
  • Breaking Away
  • Little Elegy
  • Music for Judith
  • Prelude
  • Lullaby
  • Bist du bei mir, oder...?
  • Ist Bach bei mir

To pay tribute to ex-Spitafields Festival director Judith Serota, 11 composers each contributed a short ‘reflection’ based on JS Bach’s arrangement of GH Stölzel’s Bist du mei mir. The theme gives way to a lovely variation by Stephen Johns based upon gentle repeated notes and sustained chords. A terse canon by Anthony Payne follows. A lyrical, slowly moving variation by Tarik O’Regan consists of beautifully proportioned wide intervals and chorale-like chords. Judith Weir’s contribution is also apt, varied and cannily deployed for the instrument.

Anthony Burton inserts increasingly complex two-handed unison lines between the theme’s phrases, while Richard Rodney Bennett’s gorgeous Little Elegy fuses Fauré and Bill Evans. There are sparsely textured, leisurely-paced inventions from Diana Burrell, Thea Musgrave and Michael Berkeley. Peter Maxwell Davies offers alternately tonal and atonal musings that end on a quiet, surprising major chord. Finally, Jonathan Dove’s brief finale looks back to Busoni’s rich sonorities, albeit at a low decibel level. Despite the diverse compositional styles, each piece easily flows from one to the next, abetted by Melvyn Tan’s mellifluous and caring interpretations. A most enjoyable, enchanting 22 minutes of music, well worth downloading.

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