Passacaglia was the first major work for orchestra among Glen Newton's compositions. It was first performed by the St. Anthony Civic Orchestra. The work, which remains in D minor throughout, begins with the low strings playing the nine-note theme shown below.

The 9-note theme

The theme, always present, is carried by various instruments, with musical interest provided by variety in the harmonic structure, other melodic lines, and tone colors. The table below gives some idea of the organization of the composition. It shows who plays the passacaglia theme and some of the additional melodic interest. The theme is played in 8-bar phrases in 3/4 time except as noted.

Who Plays the Theme What Else?
Violas, cellos, basses Nothing; this introduces the passacaglia theme
Violas, cellos, basses, bassoons, tuba Chords in horns 1-3
Cellos, basses, 2nd bassoon 1st clarinet solo
Cellos and basses pizzicato 1st flute, English horn, 2nd clarinet, 1st bassoon repeat the previous clarinet line
Basses and 2nd bassoon Legato strings, oboes, and bassoons; second half has staccato bassoon, English horn and oboe
Cellos and basses Legato strings and woodwinds
Trumpets and trombones Full orchestra including first use of timpani and cymbals
Basses and tuba Chromatic woodwinds
Basses, tuba, bass trombone, bassoons, horns (with two-bar extension and hold) Slower tempo; countermelody in upper woodwinds, violins, violas, cellos; rhythmic interest in trumpets and trombones
1st flute (4 bars) Flute and clarinet quartet in 6/8 time
1st oboe (4 bars) Quartet: oboe, clarinet, horn, and bassoon
1st violins pizzicato and muted Horn solo with trumpet solo answer; muted strings; clarinets and bassoons legato
English horn 1st flute solo; harmonies by violins and violas arco, muted, no vibrato
2nd trombone Brass quartet with 2nd trombone on the bottom
Tuba, 2nd trombone, bass trombone Full brass choir
Cellos, basses, tuba Horns unison
Cellos, basses, tuba Trumpets and 1st trombone repeat the previous horn line; backgrounds have 8th-note triplets
Flutes, oboes, clarinets Moving line in bassoons, tuba, cellos, and basses
1st horn, violins As above but add trombone and violas to moving line; add snare drum
All strings, flutes, piccolo, tuba After two bars rest, the oboes, bassoons, trumpets, and trombones start the theme; after two more bars rest, the clarinets and horns start the theme; these are partial theme statements -- they only continue to the end of the 8-bar phrase
Trumpets and violas in 8 bars, while trombones, tuba, cellos, and basses play it in 6 bars with 2 bars filler Flutes, oboes, and clarinets play the countermelody from the first section
Basses, cellos, trombones, and tubas in 8 bars; while trumpets, 2nd violins, and violas play it in 6 bars, and 1st violins plays it in one bar (extended phrase) Flutes alternate triplet bars with 1st violins; snare drum triplets

This page was last updated
Friday, February 07, 2020.

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