The title Fathers and Sons, I regret to say for devotees of Russian literature, has nothing to do with Ivan Turgenev. It reflects, rather, the theme of this variation piece, a little refrain I sang quite some years ago to calm our very young son when he couldn’t sleep. I recall it even worked a few times. The simplicity of this tune, six repetitions, five of them different, of the descending pentachord Sol,Fa,Mi,Re,Do, twice interrupted by cadential repeated notes is heard in the violas,cellos and basses right at the start and makes possible very free elaboration without obscuring the source. Woven throughout the piece, though not in a schematic way, is the opposition and/or the cooperation of pairs. Some examples of this are the theme itself in which the three bassons extract from the six pentachords one single descending pentachord while the three trombones extract an abbreviated circle of fourths. In the second variation the same music is played very low and then overlapped very high. The fourth variation is also a double. In another variation, largely only for the first violins and the piano, a flute picks up a note held for a long time by a tuba four octaves lower. The general movement of the piece is towards an increasingly free and expansive understanding of the theme which is, one hopes, what should happen between parents and their children.
The recorded excerpt is last three minutes of the piece, Ms. 393-423