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Judith Weir I broke off a Golden Branch (1991)

For violin, viola, cello, double bass and piano

15 minutes

I Broke off a Golden Branch is scored for the same instrumental ensemble as Schubert's Trout Quintet, and shares one musical feature with it, namely high writing in octaves for the piano. This is not a quotation, but, as I discovered whilst composing the piece, a necessary counterbalance to the excessively bassish sound of the strings.


The piece has two movements, both of which are sets of variations: the first on an original theme, the second on a very transformed version of Croatian folk song, whose words say, roughly:

Yanko slept beneath a poplar

Beneath a golden-branched poplar

I broke off a golden branch


My debt to the traditional music of the Balkan region has been very great, and I began the piece as a sort of homage to this strand in my musical technique. During the period of composition, war broke out in the region I was thinking about, and my musical reflections grew more and more sombre.

© Judith Weir

I Broke off a Golden Branch was written for the Schubert Ensemble in 1991 and is dedicated to William Howard. The piece was commissioned by the Schubert Ensemble, with the financial assistance of The South West Art Board and the Schubert Ensemble Trust. It was first performed by the Schubert Ensemble on the 5th July1992 at the Cheltenham International Music Festival.

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