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Down Ampney Variation

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Large Orchestra: 2.(II=picc). 2. 2. 2 - 4331 - perc (2)- timp - (harp) - strings.

Duration (approx)   5 minutes
Composed   2004
Publisher   Maecenas Music

Three Choirs Festival

First performance   13th August 2004
Venue   Gloucester Cathedral
Orchestra / Ensemble   Philharmonia Orchestra
Conductor   Martyn Brabbins

Single movement


George Vass, Tempo

James Francis Brown's central slow movement, a delightful lightly scored confection, was possibly the most successful at utilising the special acoustic properties of the cathedral; Brown's music has the spirit of the English renaissance, and his striking facility as a composer was evident from the very first bar.

Programme Notes

My variation does not follow the course of the hymn tune precisely, although fragments of its phrases are heard in almost every bar, albeit often considerably transformed. I wanted to approach the material as though it was of my own invention and to treat it as I would one of my own compositions.

After a clarinet solo which combines a part of the closing phrase with a melodic idea of my own, the variation proceeds in a rather sombre B minor, avoiding reference to the rising line of the opening until later. The full brass is reserved for the central climax, which treats the section corresponding to the words 'O comforter draw near'. This subsides to reveal a simple ternary structure where the return is elaborated and enriched by the use of divided strings, harp and glockenspiel. The tonal framework, which has been constantly stretched beyond itself becomes more tenuous as the music makes way for the ensuing variation.

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