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Abigail’s Jig (Op.10 No.2a) was originally composed in 1980 for flute and piano to celebrate the birth of Abby, the composer’s daughter, (who later went on to perform it herself in 1998 at Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge, as part of her A-level music recital). This arrangement for bassoon and piano was made in 2012, and is dedicated to Max, Abby’s son.
The piece attempts to capture the atmosphere of an Irish jig. It has a harmonically straightforward piano part, using a mixture of ‘vamping’ and melodic imitations of the bassoon part.
The introduction is intended to be humorous and rather musically misleading. It starts in F minor, but is immediately contradicted by remote chords, openly parodying the ‘cowboy’ music of Aaron Copland. Modal harmony helps to create the mood of pseudo-folk music.
The main theme starts in the bassoon in the unexpected key of D minor and for 20 bars the two instruments take turns to present the melody, the piano vamping for the most part.
An angular (bassoon) counter-melody is added when the introductory music returns, leading to the second theme, still in D minor, and based largely on arpeggios and scales. After 14 bars, the harmony modulates sequentially and builds up to a key change to E minor, which presents the first theme unexpectedly softly, in keeping with the humour of the piece.
The recap here is contracted before the climax where the bassoon plays decorative triplets against a strong statement in the lower piano of the main theme in augmentation.
After a final reference to the introductory material, the piece finishes with an upward flourish on the bassoon