"La Follia" Variations
Recorder Orchestra

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History and Performance Notes

This work represents the intersection of two inspirations: a class on Baroque ornamentation with recorderist Letitia Berlin, and an introduction to the recorder orchestra musical medium through membership in the American Recorder Orchestra of the West (AROW).

In the 16th century the practice of composing "divisions on a ground", or counterpoint upon a repeated bass pattern, became popular in Italy and Spain. Well-known “grounds,” such as the passamezzo antico, romanesca, follia (all closely related), ruggiero, passamezzo moderno, and bergamesca took their names from popular dances spread throughout Europe. All such grounds involved unchanging harmonic patterns that provided ideal frameworks for improvisation. In England the follia was known as Farinelli’s Ground, with various anglicized spellings of the name Farinel, named after an Italian violinist who contributed to the popularity of the tune in England. Corelli’s variations for violin (Op. 5 no. 12), also available for recorder, became so famous that several later composers named their own follias “Variations on a Theme by Corelli.” To make it even more complex, the Corelli variations are sometimes indicated as “Variations on a Theme by Farinelli.”

In this work, I present the basic Follia chord progression in its unadorned entirety at the beginning of the piece. Then come 14 variations which range from high drama to light fluff to schmaltzy kitch, and which highlight different sections of the recorder orchestra from time to time. The piece was debuted in Oakland and Sacramento, California in November 2001 by AROW. It's scored in 12 parts for Sopranino, 2 Soprano (Descant), 3 Alto (Treble), 3 Tenor, Bass, Great Bass and Contrabass recorders. Basically it's in 4 parts, but each part has three sub-parts.

For a more portable reduced arrangement, check out the 5-part version (SMM140)!


 "La Follia" Variations for Recorder Orchestra

Performed at the East Bay Recorder Society, March 2002