Basho was premiered by Herbert du Plessis, Salle Cortot, Paris in December 1997.
It began life as part of a call, later abandoned, for new works making only ‘amateur’ demands and linked to a repertoire piece, so that both could be played by young musicians.
When I returned later to complete the fragment, its technical demands were allowed to grow with each of its paired variations, but these retained their structural debt to Haydn’s Piccolo Divertimento in F minor.
Haydn’s famous major/minor duality became, here, one between a spiky unison and a richer chordal idea.
Like the opposing ideas of Airs, Waters and Floating Islands these then evolve, respectively, to be unfolded here in six pairs of variations after the twin themes. I borrowed the title of a Basho, or sumo wrestling contest, with its fifteen short bouts - enjoying also the slighty percussive/pianistic overtones of the title to English ears.
c Piers Hellawell 2011