Bright Cecilia: Variations on a Theme by Purcell

by Magnus Lindberg

[a co-commission of seven composers]

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Magnus Lindberg

Bright Cecilia: Variations on a Theme by Purcell

Chester Music


Purcell's music has always been very important to me, and touching art of this value is dangerous. Yet I think he lived sufficiently long ago, and is safe enough in his reputation, for us not to be scared of damaging his music. I wouldn't do such a thing with Ravel, for instance.

I've taken on the sombre mood of Purcell's Funeral Music for Queen Mary that Stanley Kubrick created so successfully in his film A Clockwork Orange. He brought out its scary qualities. My variation is an amalgam of the "Great Gate of Kiev" - I wanted to call it the "Great Gate of Purcell" - and this Kubrick "take" on Purcell's music. I've respected the structure but brought my own flavour to the harmony. I'm a great fan of Francis Bacon - the way he based his work on the great tradition of anatomy but stretched and distorted it. It's a good test of a composer if, when faced with a tonal piece, your musical language is flexible enough to enter into it. I thought the least I could do is give the whole set of variations a proper tonal ending - the chord of G major. I hope it doesn't sound ridiculous: it's meant to be respectful!

© Magnus Lindberg 2002

(The Proms Festival, London)




Works for Orchestra or Large Ensemble


BBC Symphony Orchestra, cond. Leonard Slatkin, PROMS Last Night Concert, London, September 14, 2002.


1. Tema and Tema elaborata (Colin Matthews), 2. Variation 1: Scherzando (Judith Weir), 3. Variation 2: Sognante (Poul Ruders), 4. Variation 3: Fantastico (David Sawer), 5. Variation 4: Giocoso (Michael Torke), 6. Variation 5: Solenne (Anthony Payne), 7. Variation 6: Finale grande (Magnus Lindberg)

Commisioned by / dedications

Commissioned by the BBC Music Magazine for its 10th Anniversary.

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