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John W. Duarte : In Honorem Ioanni Doulandi Op97 : Variations on Melancholy Galliard

John W. Duarte

Doberman – Yppan: 16 pages

In a series called John Duarte Rediscovered, this is the latest volume of a number of his works that after decades in some cases , are finally being published. To say that this work, written in 1984, was premiered by Alan Rinehart ion April 1985, and recorded by him in 2000, and yet is only this year being published, seems bizarre.

I well remember growing up, learning classical and trying to get my hands around his English Suite, and then his Sonatinette, and numerous other pieces of his, before one day, having assumed that I knew how his works sounded, I picked up another piece from the local music shop, only to find it was in a very different style altogether, and almost seemed to have been written by someone else entirely.

As I grew up with his works, I understood eventually that his writing style is rather chameleonic and that he could write in a very English folk – song style and then write another piece full of musical crunches and clashes. Such is this piece here.

It begins with the theme, being Dowland’s Melancholy Galliard and after that follows six variations and finally a seventh in the form of a Renaissance Fantasia. The original melody consists of three short sections, and the subsequent variations are sub- divided up so that the first two are based on theme 1, the 3rd and 4th, on the second theme, and the 5th and 6th on the last section, with the final Fantasia based on all three of them.

With a dropped D sixth, the first variation consists primarily of sliding thirds in two different voices that deliberately clash to create some rather bizarre harmonies as they occasionally land on each other. Marked Bramoso (yearning) this mixture of 5/8 and 4/8 is often a little awkward in the fingering , but then again, Duarte required a certain sound from his thirds , and these didn’t always land conveniently easily on the fingerboard. The Amabile 2nd variation starts in a friendly enough fashion in a gentle 6/8, but quickly develops an acidic edge to its harmonies as it moves through its two different speeds. The largely 9/8, and 6/8 3rd variation, ‘Con Impeto’ races around in groups of three quaver before landing on a dissonant chord of three notes with the top and bottom notes being an octave and a semitone apart. As the quaver melody races around, the dissonant chord lands each time in a different place, but still consisting of the same intervals. This then leads to an Agitato coda and then a move onto the 4th marked Alla Marcia, misurato e solenne which further explores the dissonant chords from the previous variation , now extended often to 5 or 6 note chords, surrounding a steady march beat in the middle .After a close on a B Major chord underpinned by a D natural 6th open string the 5th , and Alla Gavotta, tempo giusto, senza espressione leads straight into a two voiced idea where the lower voice imitates the top one half a bar later, with a number of places where the two voices land in a clash of harmonies. The sixth variation Come una Siciliana lontana, dolce e eterero, is filled with harmonics both natural and artificial intermingled with the melodic structure, so the player has to be agile at swapping from one to the other without any difficulties. The final 7th , and the Fantasia, is, at 4 pages, the most extended of the set, and covers the entire three sections of the theme, before finally entering into a coda where there are moments reminding you of earlier sections, and a final close on a D Major chord.

This major work by one of our most loved UK composers is advanced in every way. For lovers of his more harmonic style, this might be somewhat of a stretch, but for anyone else this is a work that is finally getting its long – awaited publication.

Chris Dumigan

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