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Sunshine Variations for Cello & Piano

Instrumentation: cello, piano
Duration: 11:00
Year Composed: 2019
Commissioner: Edmonton Recital Society

Dedicated to the memory of Tanya Prochazka


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Program Notes

2019 will go down as my year of the cello. In the winter, I completed Sonata for Cello and Piano, and in the summer, Sunshine Variations. Whereas the former is an expansive work in three contrasting movements, the latter consists of an uninterrupted sequence of 21 brief variations on a concise theme, the work's flowing structure resembling that of the English composer Hubert Parry's Symphonic Variations. My original theme, in C major, is relaxed and warm, introduced by the cello alone, which accompanies itself with strummed, pizzicato chords. Not until the fifth variation does the music introduce notes beyond the C diatonic collection, allowing some time for the ear to wallow in consonance and prolonged calm. The continuous, chaconne-like structure gently subjects the theme to variation in style, tempo, and mood, exploring the melody's multiple facets, in turns graceful, ecstatic, giddy, and wistful. Contrapuntal exploration plays an important role: in a series of canonic variations and in the ultimate variation, a lively fughetta. Unlike my sonata, whose first movement is at times dark and dramatic, Sunshine Variations, for all its continuous change, projects sustained optimism, hence the title, and in this respect, pays tribute to a key aspect of its dedicatee's personality: the renowned cellist Tanya Prochazka was admired as much for her great artistry as for her sunny disposition, even in the face of hardship. Sunshine Variations was commissioned by the Edmonton Recital Society and premiered by Janet Scott Hoyt and Kathleen de Caen.

—R.R.


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