St. Stephen's Variations, By Lori Reckling
St. Stephen's Basilica in Budapest, Hungary, when I first visited in 1977, was blackened with soot and bearing many scars from two world wars and decades of existence behind the Iron Curtain. Most of those present in the once glorious space were tourists, well-directed by government-approved tour guides. Those remaining, native Hungarians and other Eastern Europeans, seemed sad and almost frightened to be in what had been a place of worship and joy. I was seventeen and will never forget the eerieness.
Fast-forward thirty-seven years and I am once again visiting St. Stephen's, now lovingly and painstakingly restored over a period of many years by her people, free now to worship as they feel called. Gleaming gold, spotless marble, fresh plaster and paint, and music. Music everywhere. Sonorous organ, clanging bells, and singing with a joy that I have never encountered before or since. Simple hymns sung with pureness and simplicity in the native language moved me to tears.
St. Stephen's Variations is a humble attempt by this composer to capture a bit of the joy experienced that day and should be approached with that in mind. The theme is the recessional hymn.
Practice and performance of the piece should at no time be ostentatious or overbearing, always erring on the side of less rather than more. Great care and sensitivity is to be taken with voicing and pedaling, most especially in variation three, where three melodic lines need to be carefully balanced. The obligato in the third variation may optionally be played by a C instrument or sung by a soprano on "ah" or "oh" into the strings of the piano.
Lori Reckling December 2014
Excerpt only. Copyright 2014 by Lori Reckling. All rights reserved. Reproduction is strictly prohibited.