1) Boris Blacher and the Variable Metre

The fist research point, given with the second project, is about a rhythmical structure introduced by Boris Blacher. It also contains a request to listen to his “Second Paganini Variations”- which will be listed in my Listening Log.

Boris Blacher was born on the 19th of January 1903 in Niutschang, China. His father was from a Russo-Asian-Estnian background, his mother was German. Due to his fathers’ work the family had to move quite often. Bacher started having piano lessons at a very young age and worked as a stagehand for the Siberian opera company with 14 years. In 1922 he moved to Berlin to study architecture and mathematics before he came back to studying music in 1926 for seven years. 1938 the conductor Karl Böhm offered him a position as a teacher, which Blacher had to quit one year after, because his “teaching did not accord with National Socialist policy”. (Boosey & Hawkes,2018) Having been quite a popular teacher, he came back to his post after the war. His potential as a composer was found in 1947 with the premier of his orchestral variations on a theme by Paganini. He died on the 30th of January 1975. 1,2,3

As well as many other well-known composers of the 20th century, he tried to explore the structure of music. Being inspired by Arnold Schönbergs twelve-tone-technique he introduced “Variable metre”. “The size and sequenze of the bars is determined by a given series.” 4 (de Leeuw, 2014)

Zweites Klavierkonzert Boris Blacher Variable Metren

A well-known piece by Boris Blacher based entirely on the sturcture of Variable Metres. It’s structure starts with 12/8 in the first bar, then goes to 8/8 in the next one. The third bar starts again with 12/8, followed by 8/8 and the fith bar includes 7/8. After that it comes back to the 12/8, building itself down again and adding another smaller bar, etc.


1 Boosey & Hawkes, a concord music company. (2018) Boris Blacher. (online) Available at: https://www.boosey.com/pages/cr/composer/composer_main?composerid=2809&ttype=BIOGRAPHY&ttitle=Biography

2 Haider, C. (2011) Biographie von Boris Blacher (1903-1975) (online) Available at: http://www.flutepage.de/deutsch/composer/person.php?id=1079

3 Cumings, R. (2011) Boris Blacher (online) Available at: https://www.allmusic.com/artist/boris-blacher-mn0001533505/biography

4 de Leeuw, T. (2014) Music of the Twentieth Century- A study of its elements and structure. ed. Amsterdam University Press, p.56

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