Chaconne (extract Lifecycle) op.489g (1996)

Published by: Highbridge Music Ltd
Instrumentation: Piano
[Key to Abbreviations]
Duration: 4:48
Sheet Music Available
Instrumental / piano score for sale

Chaconne is available singly as a booklet  from (or by enquiry from

It is also one of the pieces in 'Lifeycle' a collection of 24 piano pieces by Howard Blake which is available for sale complete as a book, by enquiry to

Recordings Available
Lifecycle, piano music of imagination and reflection
Released: 2003
Recorded: 2002
Artists: William Chen (Piano)
Available from: ABC Classics (Australia) Amazon UK

1. Recorded by William Chen as one of the items on 'Lifecycle' ABC Classics. Available from Amazon

 2. Recorded as one of the works on the album 'WALKING IN THE AIR - THE MUSIC OF HOWARD BLAKE' performed by VLADIMIR ASHKENAZY and released on March 3rd 2014 on Decca Classics 478 6300  www,


In D minor, composed in 1975 in Cuckfield.  Published 1996 as Number 7 of 'Lifecycle'. (Previously published as number 5 of Eight Character Pieces) Popular as a test-piece for Grade 7 to 8 piano exams and previously chosen for the ABRSM syllabus.

Note by the composer March 2017 in a letter to pianist Mark Crean:

 CHACONNE (extract Lifecycle)
When my complete catalogue of works was transferred to music publishers Chester/Novello around the turn of the millenium a complete edition of ‘Lifecycle’ was to be published. The editor, who was not exactly a friend of mine, stated his intention to re-set the whole of it in order mostly to re-title the one piece, ‘Chaconne’ because he thought it was not ‘a real Chaconne’. This would have been both time-consuming and incorrect.  After my explaining its authenticity at length and proving that it followed all the rules set out by musical authorities such as Grove, Stainer, Tovey etc he was forced to concede that ‘Lifecycle’ could go ahead and be printed.
The most famous Chaconne is J.S.Bach’s, which acts as the final movement of his Violin Partita in D minor. A Chaconne (fre.) or Chacony (eng.) or Ciaconna (It.) is a piece composed on a ground bass. It is similar to a Passacaglia or Passecaille, except that the Chaconne derives originally from a dance or song with an accent always on the second beat of a 3/4 bar. Having arrived at D minor in my own key system for ‘Lifecycle’, I thought it would be interesting to attempt such a Chaconne for piano. I constructed a 4-bar ground bass in 3/4 which features the descending chromatic scale  D, C-sharp,  C, B,  B-flat, A over a pedal D. This four bar sequence repeats 15 times, on each occasion being given a new harmonisation, the whole piece lasting 4’48’’. The dynamics range from pianissimo to fortissimo and the textures vary from a sparse quiet to a bravura fortissimo.
A feature of the piece is the D bell-note in octaves that sounds throughout. Where did this come from? I remember, as a boy of about 12 in Brighton, seeing the film ‘The Magic Bow -  the story of Paganini’. For me it was wonderful because, whilst Paganini was acted by Stewart Granger, the violin was played by Yehudi Menuhin, and it was an opportunity to feel that one could see and hear ‘the greatest violinist in the world’ play - for the price of a cinema ticket. In one scene, Paganini is insulted at a concert and he rages out of a packed hall into an empty street at night near a great cathedral. A mighty bell starts to sound a continuous low D and Paganini improvises a violin solo over it. This was magical to me, as it might possibly be with my own 'Chaconne' now. If I happen one day to be in a situation with a convenient nearby bell it would marvellous to play the piece with a bell sounding D!
An unusual piano opportunity presented itself to me in 2009. My brilliant pianist friend William Chen rang me from Shanghai and told me that he was to give a private concert on behalf of Stuart Pianos at the Shanghai Expo in 2010. He wondered if I had anything he could play. He told me that Stuart Pianos had an extraordinary nine octaves instead of the usual seven. I thought this was most interesting and that I might make a special arrangement of something to accommodate the extra notes. I was currently working on a piano test piece for the Hong Kong International Piano Competition and he asked if, when I had completed it, he could possibly try it out for me. This piece was 'Speech After Long Silence' and I found that the extra notes made a wonderfully resonant difference. We then tried out a performance of  'Chaconne' with bass octaves sounding marvellous at a full octave lower than previously possible!
It is in fact quite difficult to negotiate ‘Chaconne’ in regard to pedalling if one’s piano does not have the advantage of the third (sostenuto) pedal, since there is often passage work on the third beat which may get blurred. Individual players should seek out their own ways of pedalling which work best for them, just as they may wish to divide some of the double third figurations between two hands, rather than battle with difficulties that occur with one.
About half the piece is written on three staves, rather than the usual two, since this proves much easier to read. A similar print device is found in Rachmaninov’s famous C sharp minor Prelude.



3rd March 2014 Vladimir Ashkenazy and Vovka Ashkenazy, DECCA RELEASE MARCH 3RD 2014

In 2011 Howard wrote the test-piece for The Hong Kong International Piano Competition which he attended. The President of the jury was Vladimir Ashkenazy who liked the work (Speech after long silence) and expressed his desire to record an album of Howard's piano music. This took place between March and July 2013. The repertoire includes two works for two pianos in which he is joined by his son Vovka and concert performances of these works were given in Lugano for RSI on 9th March 2013 just prior to the recordings. The completed 80-minute album also presents a wide selection of Howard Blake's solo pieces for piano performed by Vladimir Ashkenazy himself.  The completed album will be released by Decca on March 3rd 2014. The title track of the album is a solo piano version of 'Walking in the air' of which a single for download was issued as a pre-release for download on December 2nd 2013.

Related Works

'*LIFECYCLE' op.489 (1996) (Audio Sample Available)
A sequence of 24 pieces for the piano - the complete 77 page album can be purchased by mail order

Related Autobiography Chapters


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