When one views the work of Mark Rothko one is struck first by the emotional impact of these monumental paintings and then by their similarity—all pictures seem to be variations of one another—variations without a theme, for there are no recognisable objects or motives, just colours, areas and proportions.

My Rothko Variations then, are conceived in this sense, not in the traditional musical variation form, but as a series of pieces without themes, containing only orchestral colours and shapes.

In order to put these four “Variations” into a wider perspective I have separated them with three Interludes whose style contrasts strongly with the main material: where the “Variations” are slow and dense, the Interludes are faster and lighter.

What we hear then is:

Variation 1–Interlude 1-Variation 2–Interlude 2–Variation 3-Interlude 3-Variation 4

Orchestra: 2/2/2/2; 4/2/3/1; Strings, Timpani, Harp, Piano, Percussion: xylophone, glockenspiel, crotales, 4 suspended cymbals, 2 large gongs, bass drum

In the 1st and 3rd Interludes the half aleotoric sections are written using Lutoslawskian “long-lead” notation. Here is an extract from the first Interlude:

Rothko 1. Interlude (p11) - NZSO

Here is the full orchestral score and the NZSO recording of 2011

Rothko Variations
Rothko Variations - NZSO, 2011