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Lesbia Waltz

Opus 15

piano piece
Tetrad Press 1972

first performed by Jill Phillips at Greenwich Theatre 1972
recorded by JP (Words & Music Editions Hansjörg Mayer 1975)
recorded by Lydia Doumancich (Intervalles 1978)
recorded by The Composers Ensemble (Largo 1997)

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Notes on this work

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1. Lesbia Waltz op. 15a (orchestrated by John Woolrich 1992) performed by The Composers Ensemble at St Silas Church, London 1993 

2. Lesbia Waltz op 15 performed by Andrew Ball, piano, at St Silas Church, London 1993 

The fifteen works that I published and listed in Works/Texts to 1974 were all written between 1962 and 1972. Until 1991 it looked as if they would represent my entire output. They were very much of their time, and little played: in some cases their first performances were probably also their last. These were often given by myself and John Tilbury at art schools in those far off liberal days in ghastly places (oh Walthamstow! oh Watford! oh Wolverhampton!) when students in colleges of art could spend time exploring the relationship of sound to graphic expression. This perhaps accounts for the theoretical nature of some of the scores where the notation drifts toward visual elegance at some expense to musical practicality.

As always there are exceptions and it is the last written of all these, Lesbia Waltz, where the balance is almost successfully resolved. It is a pure example of a structuralist critique applied to a piece of music. While not (yet) quite an evergreen Albumblatt it has been frequently performed, in the early nineties (in a very eccentric 'normalised' and romantic rendering) by Barry Douglas in Belfast, and in June 2001 by the Ensemble Modern at Berlin's Konzerthaus. The Composers Ensemble under John Woolrich have prepared a version for chamber group. The title Lesbia Waltz is no more my own than the notes are (although the displacement of the key change delivers some into my charge). Those who have ploughed through Smallwood's Piano Tutor will recognise the piece as the culmination of that course. Like the newly named composer (Slowmodal) the waltz is an anagram of its original. Every repeated or recapitulated bar is shifted to the point of its first appearance so that my Opus 15 is, so to speak, Lesbia Waltz ordered and arranged as if by a filing clerk.