Fourfold, Op. 11b

scoring: two pianos
duration: 12 minutes
composed 1983

dedication: -


published: Novello/Wise Music
status: available for performance


First performed 9 January 1984, at the Purcell Room, by Robert Bridge and Jonathan Higgins

Also performed 10 January, 2014, at the Purcell Room, by the Françoise-Green Piano Duo (Antoine Françoise & Robin Green)


21 January 1987, BBC Radio 3, by Robert Bridge and Jonathan Higgins



programme note:

The Garden of Forking Paths is an allegory of temporal relationships and their effect upon time-bound humanity. As a student, I read Borges’ story when it first appeared in English, in 1962; subsequently I began to apply its theory of overlapping universes of experience to the various dimensions of music, particularly in the pieces for piano duet and for two pianos which form my Opus 11.

Fourfold is the most recent of these. It explores aspects of the universe formed by the 29 distinct 4-note collections, but it also uses Borges’ idea of overlapping “times”, in which an event may appear, disappear or re-appear with altered functions in its changed surroundings.

There are four sections, each three minutes long, and each is dominated by one of the four gestures of “humours” heard at the outset; forcible, reflective, abrupt, lyrical. Events initially appearing in one mode are transformed by their reappearance elsewhere; larger or smaller fragments are constantly surfacing or being suppressed to create new combinations whose material nevertheless remains largely fixed as to pitch and register.

Music being a symbolic language of the emotions, such procedures represent a possible analogy with shifts and contradictions of mood in human consciousness, while also relating to such perceptions as the mandala-image, and to Blake’s idea of the fourfold nature of being.

Fourfold is mostly slow music; the pulse, a function of internal proportional relationships, increases its speed in the 3:4:5:6 ratio which characterises the duration of the individual gestures on their first appearance.

Justin Connolly


other comments:

Regarding the replacemnent of The Garden of Forking Paths for piano duet with Fourfold for two pianos, the pianist Robert Bridge has written:

We originally played it for a Park Lane Group Concert and I believe he originally intended to revise an earlier piece that he'd written I think for Susan Bradshaw and Richard Rodney Bennett [The Garden of Forking Paths]. If memory serves me correct he then went to Hong Kong to examine for ABRSM and had some time on his hands and decided to write a new piece. But then he got ill and and the piece got more and more delayed and eventually we got the score about a week before the concert. (private email to Nicolas Hodges, 5 April 2001)

Indeed, the manuscript of Fourfold is written on manuscript paper sourced in Hong Kong.

In the 1990s Connolly stated he wanted Fourfold to be listed in Grove as "withdrawn for revision". However, having heard the 2014 performance by Antoine Françoise and Robin Green, he found the work to function as intended, and therefore resinstated it. Thus Fourfold is his final version of the idea, and the only piece of the cycle which may be performed.