Variations For Judith
Since the 19th century when Anton Diabelli commissioned variations on his waltz theme from leading composers, there have been numerous similar exercises involving composers of a particular era or artistic circle. Variations for Judith (2007) is a thank you gift for the retiring executive director of the Spitalfields Festival, Judith Serota – also an amateur pianist – that are based on a theme from Anna Magdalena Bach’s Notebook. Most characterful of these 11 variations are Anthony Payne’s ‘Loose Canon’, which presents melodic lines in conflicting keys to startling effect, and Richard Rodney Bennett’s touching and poignantly harmonised ‘Little Elegy’. Their level of invention is approached by Judith Weir’s playful variation, and Tarik O’Regan’s intriguing spreading out of the theme; but few of the composers transcend the limitation of writing for an amateur pianist and the overall effect is worthy but unmemorable.