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Hello,

I am planning to write a Passacaglia for small orchestra on an already given theme. It is meant to be relatively modern, but (mostly) tonal.

So, I have got a few questions here:

- What are your favourite Passacaglias you could recommend to study and to learn from for this purpose?

- How would you approach the process of writing the music - more in a "theme with variations" kind of way, or in the style of Shostakovich (8th Symphony) with a stoical and relentless plain repetition plus the crazy toppings over it (I am actually not sure yet, if doing it that way is easier or more difficult)?

- Where could I find any formal / traditional teaching resources on Passacaglias (by now you can tell, that I am a bit of a novice here)?

Many thanks,

Tillerich

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Where could I find any formal / traditional teaching resources on Passacaglias (by now you can tell, that I am a bit of a novice here)?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Passacaglia

https://www.britannica.com/art/passacaglia-musical-form-and-dance

https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/A_Dictionary_of_Music_and_Musicians/...

Theres more if needed

Thanks Bob

https://soundcloud.com/bob-morabito

Hi,

thanks for that. I meant more teaching resources (and perhaps analyses), rather than descriptions of what a Passacaglia is.

Bob Morabito said:

Where could I find any formal / traditional teaching resources on Passacaglias (by now you can tell, that I am a bit of a novice here)?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Passacaglia

https://www.britannica.com/art/passacaglia-musical-form-and-dance

https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/A_Dictionary_of_Music_and_Musicians/...

Theres more if needed

Thanks Bob

https://soundcloud.com/bob-morabito

You're welcome--did you mean something more like this?

https://www.d.umn.edu/~jrubin1/JHR%20Basso%20Ostinato.htm

Thanks Bob

https://soundcloud.com/bob-morabito

Last movement of Britten violin concerto (you can peruse the score online at boosey.com):

Also Britten.  From his opera, Peter Grimes:

There is a full score here: https://www.scribd.com/document/332838095/Benjamin-Britten-Peter-Gr...

Shostakovich 1st Violin Concerto, third movement:

Hi Tillerich,

Re: plan of attack, I would suggest you consider first what you're trying to express with the passacaglia.  It is such a repetitive form, but its power lies in how the mood is built through repetition.  IMO, it's very effective when the repetition comes across as relentless and even slightly menacing.  Most of the examples I posted above are like that.  The Shostakovich, in particular, seems to offer hope for relief and then smashes it on the rocks.

However, I don't see why it couldn't be the opposite--a joyous passacaglia?  Of course it depends on your theme...

But the key point, I think, is that the repetition of the theme needs to be balanced with a relatively clear overall structure (start somewhere, go somewhere and end somewhere).  This is true for all pieces, of course, but is especially important because the repetitive nature of the passacaglia can too easily lead to meandering.  I would recommend at least thinking the overall structure through before you start.

Then, of course, there is Bach's passacaglia. My persona;favorite. 

Great choices John, especially the Grimes.

Tillerich,

Remember too that the theme can appear in any register. 

The approach is sort of like variation form except there is the added layer of the theme itself. The music that covers the theme should ideally have its own strata of logic and feel inevitable as it builds and this can be done in many ways. One could develop original motives over the theme, or do what Bernstein does in his second symphony and have each variation create a new variation by continually developing a motive actually from the previous variation.

A beautiful, short tonal example is Walton's from Henry V.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U4VQgKGbEkg

And another beauty..V.Williams 5th symphony..scroll to 30' 40"

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q9YoEETzYsE

And hell, why not one from this poster, although it is a chaconne, there is no real difference although I actually do change register and should perhaps re-name it . Go to   the movie called Partita (2nd down) and scroll to 20' 40"

http://www.mikehewer.com/page-3/

On the other hand if you want some extreme but ancient examples you could follow here this one for three viols:

Is it or is it not a passacaglia? To my ears and brain it is. Essentially just three descending notes (F, E, D) can keep the piece going for 8 minutes. (So much for minimalism :-)  )

(PDF of the score attached after the video)

Sonnerie%20score.pdf

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