scoring: oboe and piano
composed: 1970, rev. 1983
dedication: for Edwin Roxburgh and Harold Lester
commissioned: with Arts Council Funds
status: will be available shortly
original verison (1970) first performed in a BBC broadcast, by Edwin Roxburgh and Harold Lester
No live performance of either version has yet been traced.
Tesserae A is one of a set of short pieces which use a technique of composition related to the idea of a mosaic: small fragments of material, often only three or four notes long, are welded together to form larger structures. All the pieces in the set are similar in overall form, being based on the proportions of a cantus firmus which is never heard in a directly melodic role, though its pitch structure is the basis of all the material used in the piece. In turn, this basic material is transformed and varied by being interwoven with fragments of completely different thematic character.
As portions of the cantus firmus and its associates recur again and again, it is possible to recognise elements which seem to be present most of the time, but always in contexts which set them out in a different way. Tesserae are chips, used in classical times in various gambling games. Unlike cards they are merely undifferentiated units whose sole importance arises from their use in the game: the game will define them, but without them the game cannot be played.
Each of the pieces consists of five principal sections, though a different relationship between those sections is manifested in each work; despite their common origin, each piece is an individual work standing on its own. Some of the pieces use, in addition to the idea of quotation inherent in the use of cantus firmi, other quotes from music of different periods, either transformed or in recognisable form.
First version originally published by OUP. See Heinz Holliger Pro Musica Nova Oboe Solo, Bibliography, p. 5
Programme note from dyeline of original version.