Victory Boogie-Woogie
Victory Boogie-Woogie for two pianos was commissioned by Riga New Music Centre in Latvia for the Riga Piano Duo for the 1993 Riga Festival of British Music, with funds from the Arts Council of Great Britain.

This work typifies my concern with ‘non-sequential narratives’ – musical forms that zig-zag between segmented contrasts (rather than the prolonged developments typical of European symphonic work). I am especially interested in the musical journey traced through sections of opposite type, and I found a clear pre-echo of this in the later coloured blocks of artist Piet Mondrian. In his writings, Mondrian pointed to the balancing of broad, plain blocks with smaller ones of much brighter colour, so that they are in balance, though not symmetrical.

This piece actually takes as a ‘map’ a vertical slice through Mondrian’s last canvas, Victory Boogie-Woogie. This sequence takes us through a procession of both plain and coloured panels, in succession; in the painting these are separated by borders of brightly beaded strips, which I interpret here as sounds from within the pianos, brief ‘cadences’ between the main sections. These main episodes are ‘coloured’ in ways that should be obvious, the bright ones being rhythmically diverse, extrovert and in some cases with even a whiff of boogie-woogie – while the plain ones (coming at the beginning, the end and here and there along the way, like a refrain) are homophonic and modal, with marked inner voicings of chords.

c Piers Hellawell 2010