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Variations for Orchestra (Carter)

Variations for Orchestra is an orchestral composition by the American composer Elliott Carter. The work was commissioned by the Louisville Orchestra and was com- posed in 1955, based on the composer’s sketches from 1953 and 1954. It was given its premiere on April 21, 1956, by the Louisville Orchestra under the conductor Robert Whitney, both to whom the work is dedicated. [1]

1 Composition

Variations for Orchestra has a duration of roughly 24 min- utes and consists of twelve connected movements com- prising an introduction, a theme, nine variations, and a finale:

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Introduction: Allegro

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Theme: Andante

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Variation 1: Vivace leggero

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Variation 2: Pesante

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Variation 3: Moderato

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Variation 4: Ritardando molto

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Variation 5: Allegro misterioso

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Variation 6: Accelerando molto

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Variation 7: Andante

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Variation 8: Allegro giocoso

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Variation 9: Andante

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Finale: Allegro molto

1.1 Instrumentation

The work is scored for an orchestra comprising two flutes (2nd doubling piccolo), two oboes, two clarinets, two bassoons, four horns, two trumpets, two trombones, bass trombone, tuba, timpani, percussion, harp, and strings. [1]

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2 Reception

Variations for Orchestra has been praised by music crit- ics. Anthony Tommasini of The New York Times wrote, "[Carter’s] goal was to write a work of exhilarating va- riety. Indeed, one way to listen to this piece is to for- get everything about the theme-and-variations form and revel instead in the boldly contrasting moods, harmonies, colors and characters of the music.” [2] Tim Page of The Washington Post similarly remarked:

As with so much of Carter’s later music, this work is based on clashes of musical oppo- sites. The “theme” in these variations is aug- mented by two equally significant but dramat- ically different motifs. One occasionally has the sensation that all of the variations are being played at once; the mind focuses on the slow diminution of one passage and the sudden im- portance of another, as if a world were chang- ing before one’s ears. [3]

3 References

[1] Carter, Elliott (1955). “Variations for Orchestra”. G. Schirmer Inc. Retrieved February 25, 2016.

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4 TEXT AND IMAGE SOURCES, CONTRIBUTORS, AND LICENSES

4 Text and image sources, contributors, and licenses

4.1 Text

Variations for Orchestra (Carter) Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Variations_for_Orchestra_(Carter)?oldid=732680694 Contrib- utors: Jg2904 and BG19bot

4.2 Images

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4.3 Content license