Les Adieux

for violin and piano

Richard Whalley

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for violin and piano

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Composer Richard Whalley
Year of Composition 2019
Duration ca.10'
ISMN 9790570683338
Categories (all composers) ,
Catalogue ID ce-rw1la1


Written during a period of acute political uncertainty over whether the United Kingdom would remain within the European Union or not, Les Adieux is a pan-European musical landscape. It is built around fragments of the national anthems of the 28 (at the time of writing) countries of the European Union, appearing roughly in the order in which the countries first joined. Anthems are used partly to represent each country, and partly because of their familiarity within each country; they are not intended in any way to celebrate nationalism, although of course nationalism is a significant contributor to the turbulent political context behind the work.

Just as the European Union is highly complex, pulsating with life and energy, the textures here are often complex and polyrhythmic, sometimes resembling an Ivesian tapestry of changing themes and textures. Such complexity is tempered, however, by the more meditative quality of an opening 28-note line on the violin, which appears transformed later on, accompanied by 28 chords in the piano.

The music of Beethoven makes an appearance, not only through reference to his Op.81a piano sonata (‘Les Adieux’), but through reference to the anthem of the European Union, Ode to Joy, which is heard towards the end. As if to represent the emotional impact of all this turbulence, the final note in the violin is to be played with vibrato if the U.K. is still within the E.U. at the time of performance, and without if the U.K. has left.

In the first performance, given by Eric Robberecht (violin) and Richard Whalley (piano) in l’Eglise Saint-Pierre-es-Liens, in Cissé, France, on 13th August 2019, the final note was performed with vibrato.