A piano trio or quartet composed for members of the Brooklyn Philharmonic, using an original theme based on the initials of “Robert Spano, Music Director, Brooklyn Philharmonic.”


versions for piano trio (2004) and piano quartet (2005) / 11 min.

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Program Note

Brooklyn Variations is a gift to the Brooklyn Philharmonic—its musicians and its patrons, my neighbors—from a composer who has learned much in working with them all. It was premiered in its original piano trio form on April 18, 2004, on one of the many Brooklyn Philharmonic’s Music Off The Walls concerts that I produced at the Brooklyn Museum, by members of the Brooklyn Philharmonic: Robin Bushman, violin; Lanny Paykin, cello; and Ken Bowen, piano. I expanded it to a piano quartet in 2006, for a performance at Bruno Walter Auditorium at Lincoln Center, organized by cellist Lanny Paykin.

This is a set of variations intended to mirror not so much the diverse neighborhoods of Brooklyn, to which no one composer could do justice, but rather the excitement of music-making by members of the orchestra in many of those neighborhoods, and especially onstage under the direction of Robert Spano.

The sound of the work was inspired by a performance of Olivier Messiaen’s Visions de l’Amen given by Robert Spano and Ursula Oppens at Tanglewood in the summer of 2003. The theme meanders among the musical letters derived from the initial letters of “Robert Spano, Music Director, Brooklyn Philharmonic” (R=re=D; S=Es=Eb; M=mi=E; D=D; B=Bb; Ph=F). My variation procedure, rather unorthodox, is highly elastic, as different parts of the theme move ahead at different speeds and take up varying amounts of time in any given variation. The last bars of the theme in particular (tolling Bb-F for “Brooklyn Philharmonic”) are treated briefly in some variations and expansively in others; ultimately they provide a coda for the work as a whole.

—Theodore Wiprud

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