Nielsen himself confessed that his Chaconne
Op 32 was modelled on the famous Bach work for solo violin. In a letter to his daughter, Irmelin Eggert-Møller, Nielsen revealed: ‘You know Bach’s delightful Ciaconne for solo violin, of course. If only I could reach his shoulders with mine for piano!’ The work begins with the eight-bar ground bass theme played alone in the left hand; this provides the basis for the whole piece. The right-hand melody which then emerges in counterpoint with the bass gradually develops, as the work evolves, into an independent countersubject. At times the figuration recalls the kind of writing associated with Bach’s solo violin music. For the most part, however, the variations are entirely pianistic in conception. Increasingly florid and delicate, the Chaconne
briefly reaches a moment of hymn-like calm and repose before unleashing a shatteringly violent and dramatic central climax, with harsh dissonant chords hammered in both hands above a simplified version of the bass theme in the piano’s lowest register. As this climax eventually subsides, the countersubject returns, before a crystalline coda closes the work in the major key, the final page ascending ever higher into the upper register of the keyboard. Not so much a sense of transcendence, perhaps, as a gesture of perfect balance and stability.
from notes by Daniel Grimley © 2008