Wandering Pathways: Variations for Recorder and Strings | Prima Facie PFCD091

Wandering Pathways: Variations for Recorder and Strings


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Label: Prima Facie

Cat No: PFCD091

Format: CD

Number of Discs: 1

Release Date: 28th September 2018



To celebrate the centenary of the great Leonard Bernstein, Prima Facie are reissuing Variations on an Octatonic Scale, for recorder and cello (1988/9) together with a collection of other works by composers including John McCabe, Alan Hoddinott, Robert Crawford and David Ellis.

The television and film director Humphrey Burton worked with Leonard Bernstein on a series of filmed concerts in the late 1980s with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. Helena Burton, Humphrey’s daughter, then a student at Warwick University where she had been awarded a music scholarship, approached Leonard Bernstein with a request for a recorder piece, knowing that it was an instrument for which he had not previously written. In due course, a letter arrived for Helena in January 1989:

“Dear Helena, Here is the little piece I promised, and Happy New Year! I hope it’s not impossible, though I know it’s improbable, given my very modest knowledge of your virtuosic instrument. I hope there is such a thing as recorder flutter tongue and chromatic movement in the low registers. I also hope you will like the music, I must admit that I do. Forgive the double dedication; I simply couldn’t resist it and have a thriving and peaceful ’89. Much affection, Lenny B. 10 Jan ’89”

The dedication is “for HB + HB, with love”. The work is based on the octatonic scale which Bernstein had previously used in the ballet score Dybbuk (1973), and this scale appears at the foot of the first page of the manuscript. There is also a note on the manuscript stating that the player can use soprano or alto recorder, or both alternately, as preferred. In the event the work did need some minor editing before the first public performance, which was given by John Turner and Jonathan Price in the Mananan Festival at Port Erin, on the Isle of Man, on 2 July 1997, during which Humphrey Burton gave a talk on his friendship and musical links with Bernstein. The work was subsequently extended and orchestrated as the slow movement of Bernstein’s last orchestral work, the Concerto for Orchestra “Jubilee Games” (1989).

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