York Höller (1944)

Partita (1996)

for two pianos, or piano four hands

  • General information
    • Composition date: 1996
    • Duration: 15 mn
    • Publisher: Boosey & Hawkes
Detailed formation
  • 2 pianos [ou piano 4 mains]

Premiere information

  • Date: 11 August 1997

    Allemagne, Essen


    Elena Bashkirova et Brigitte Engerer.

Program note

The work is based on a 23-note, spirally-formed, open ‘sound-shape’, whose interval structure and inherent harmony (four chords of 2, 4, 7 and 10 notes each) form the melodic and harmonic structure of the pieces. The projection of the pitch relations onto the time scale produces ‘time shapes’, which determine the metric developments in each of the six pieces in a characteristic way. Though the titles of the individual pieces, as well as that of the whole cycle, seem to refer to baroque models, they are actually aimed at formal archetypes, which may be outlined as follows:

1. Preludio: Intonation, embellishment and varying illumination of the ‘keynote’ D.

2. Fuga polimetrica: here a strictly related and superimposed structure from the ‘sound-shape’ and ‘metric shape’ appears unsynchronised i.e. the first piano is staggered six bars ahead of the second.

3. Fantasia I: A kind of ‘improvisation’ on individual segments of the ‘sound-shape’, i.e. its compression as intervals, evolves from a 23-note chord (the ‘sound-shape’ vertically projected).

4. Conductus: Over the ostinato-like repetition of the retrograde ‘sound-shape’, several rhythmically independent layers, each with a distinct pattern, pile up into a complex polyphony.

5. Fantasia II: Delicate lines and their ‘shadows’ develop out of the prolonged initial notes of the ‘sound-shape’.

6. Gigue: ‘Drummed’ triplets, repeated at a furious tempo, open a crazy ‘Pas de deux’. At its centre, the music flows into a quotation of the beginning of "Général Lavine - eccentric…", that scurrilous piece from the Préludes which Debussy composed, fascinated with a performance by the star dancer Lavine in the Folies Mavigny.

The Partita is indebted to the spirit of Johann Sebastian Bach and Claude Debussy, the spirit whose polarities Bernd Alois Zimmermann always encouraged me to blend and transform.

York Höller.