Rachael Hutchings

Pianist, Composer

Scores available at Veritas Musica Publishing

Theme, Variations, and Fluctuations for solo piano

Theme, Variations, and Fluctuations was written in 2011 with the indispensable guidance of Chris Malloy. Variation technique has always fascinated me; works like Rachmaninoff's Variations on a Theme of Corelli, Schumann's Symphonic Études, Brahms' Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel, and Beethoven's use of variation technique in sonatas such as Opus 109 masterfully fuse creative figuration and expressive harmonies with the process of transforming a theme.

The work grew out of a short piece written in the spring of 2011. In the fall, I entered my second year at the University of Denver Lamont School of Music, where I'm working on a masters degree in piano performance and composition. I began expanding the work with Professor Malloy's help, augmenting the original theme and adding new variations. I also composed interludes that were still linked to the theme in some underlying way, while being more free. Along with the works previously mentioned, I drew inspiration from Baroque philosophies on affect, alternative scalar motion like those employed by Vladimir Horowitz in his Variations on a Theme from "Carmen", and even the harmonies of Bulgarian diaphonic chant.

Meanwhile, my masters piano recital approached. Along with the Beethoven sonata and Chopin sonata already chosen, I realized that programming my own composition would be a good opportunity to integrate performance, interpretation, and composition in one concert—somewhat in the manner of the great pianist-composers of the past whom I admire. My piano teacher, Alice Rybak, humored my idea. Professor Rybak, having a great deal of experience in interpreting new music, illuminated many points about how the composer communicates through the score to the performer, and she even suggested some clever edits that made the music more effective and pianistic.

The work was premiered on Saturday, May 19, 2012 at Hamilton Recital Hall in Denver, Colorado.