Little Ariadne Variations

for oboe and piano

Rob Keeley

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for oboe and piano

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Composer Rob Keeley
Year of Composition 2017
Duration -
Categories (all composers) , , ,
Catalogue ID ce-rk1lav1


The background to this seven- minute piece is as follows: As a second-study oboist in the mid-70s at the RCM (Junior Department), I had been fascinated by Gordon Crosses’s ‘Ariadne’ for oboe and ensemble of 1972 – it seemed to me to have everything a modern piece should have: colour, rhythmic variety, a certain ‘rightness’ about the harmony, and a cunningly variation technique allied to an approachable and above all, audible ‘diatonic serialism’, which Crosse had very much made his own, but which grew out of both ancient and more recent techniques (eg Stravinsky, Dallapiccola). But above all, it used as its basic ‘theme’ a strikingly memorable, easily recognisable melody.

Fast-forward to 2014, when I get to know Gordon personally and offer to make for him a piano reduction for OUP to facilitate performances of ‘Ariadne’ (apparently no-one had thought of doing this…). I then have the pleasure of meeting and getting to know its original dedicatee, the distinguished oboist Sarah Francis, and I leapt at the chance to write her a short work. It seemed natural then to base this little set of variations, which is dedicated to her, on Gordon’s memorable melody. The piece acquired its final form through much collaboration during rehearsals with Sarah, from whom I learned much about writing for the oboe.

Sarah gave the first performance, with the composer at the piano at King’s College, London, in February 2017.