- Variation I – Lake
- Variation II – Bird
- Variation III – Sky
- Variation IV – Moment
- Variation V – Image
- Duration: 28 minutes
- Soloist(s): Soprano
- Chorus: SATB
- Instrumentation: Full Orchestra OR Chamber Orchestra, Clarinet, Piano, Flute, Harp, Cello
- Published by: Novello & Co
Six variations on Stanford’s setting of the poem The Blue Bird.
Stanford’s unaccompanied part song of 1910 (words by Mary Coleridge) is here given a contemporary gloss. The solo clarinet introduces a new theme at the very beginning of the piece, adding extra melodic possibilities for later exploration. The original choral texture is enriched with washes of sound from orchestra and solo piano. These intensify phrases which the variations will focus on and develop.
VARIATION I – LAKE
The perpetual motion of harp and cello suggests the movement of water and introduces anxiety and uncertainty in sharp contrast to the serene nature of the Theme.
VARIATION II – BIRD
The lightness of the guitar and the fluttering dialogue between clarinet and flute stand in marked contrast to the intensity of the choral line.
VARIATION III – SKY
The dance-like clarinet figure is set against more robust strings and voices and the appearance of the blue sky is brought into full focus by the filmic string theme.
VARIATION IV – MOMENT
Fast-moving strings and tense woodwind and brass introduce a sense of expectancy and awe. The moment of connection is reflected in the coming together of previously disparate instruments and textures in an adrenaline-filled tour de force.
VARIATION V – IMAGE
Order reasserts itself in a return to the opening clarinet melody. Here though, it is the solo voice which holds our attention as it did in the original statement of the Theme.
The lake lay blue below the hill,
O’er it, as I looked, there flew
Across the waters, cold and still,
A bird whose wings were palest blue.
The sky above was blue at last,
The sky beneath me blue in blue,
A moment, ere the bird had passed,
It caught his image as he flew.
Words: Mary Coleridge (1861 – 1907)