Paraphrase I


For chamber ensemble


9 min.


ob (+ehn), cl (+bcl), pno, db


Premiered by
Zagros Ensemble
May 4 2015
Music Centre, Helsinki, Finland

Paraphrase I was the beginning for a larger Paraphrase-cycle that consists of several independent works. The starting point in each of the cycle’s work is a specific composers work or a genre. The works of the cycle can be performed either as independent works or consecutively as a cycle.

In the Paraphrase-cycle I approach the concept of paraphrase as a way of self-reflection as well as a commentary on a specific historical style. My composing process begins from a place where I’m relatively close to the original music, until I gradually move farther away from it. During this process the musical material goes through a variety of filters resulting in an unexpected synthesis of elements I’ve extracted from the original work combined with ways of expression that are typical for myself.

Paraphrase I reflects on a poem På verandan vid havet by the Swedish poet Viktor Rydberg, on the basis which Sibelius has also written a song. Sibelius’s program music and tone poems have resonated with me in particular.

The piece follows strictly the poem’s narrative and derives all of its material from the Sibelius song. Likewise to the poem, the piece is divided into three sections. I aim to illustrate the poem’s content in each of the sections musically.

In the first section where the shimmering waves are sighing, the idea of sighs can be found in the downward melodic gestures (minor second) by the woodwinds and double bass. The wave functions as a structural element in the overall curve of the density in the whole section. The waves can be found also in the surface elements and gestures of the individual instruments combined with the sonic idea of glittering.

In the second section where the sadly twinkling perpetual stars in the sky are vanishing, the gesture of vanishing is repeated three times and all the melodic material is derived from the declining thirds in Sibelius song.

The third section describes how the shore, sky and sea had sunk to the longing for eternity. There are three appearances of the declining gesture. The piece ends in a silence after the anticipation of God, and the three attacks in the piano with the major third (g-b) resemble church bells.

Past Performances

Aug 21 2018
Uusinta Ensemble
Music Centre, Helsinki, Finland

May 4 2015
Zagros ensemble
Music Centre, Helsinki, Finland

Sheet Music

Schott Music
Schott Music GmbH & Co. KG
Weihergarten 5
55116 Mainz
+49 6131 246-0

Press Quotes

“Particularly great was also the first Paraphrase piece, where the connection to Sibelius (På verandan vid havet) became apparent by the superbly beautiful English horn (Saku Mattila) and motifs based on thirds. Otherwise, one could observe the beautifully falling, crumbling lines contrasting the piano’s (Emil Holmström) harsh accents.”
Wilhelm Kvist, HBL, Aug 22 2018

“Sebastian Hilli’s Paraphrase for oboe, clarinet, double bass and piano belonged to the evening’s finest pieces, with a melody that is retold as small fragments by the different instruments. The English horn is such an obvious reference to Sibelius that it is difficult to miss.”
Wilhelm Kvist, HBL, May 7 2015

“Hilli was the most successful, with the emphasis on a simple beginning-middle-end structure. The clear extra-musical references also seemed to have helped the composer to create a captivating piece and liberated instrumental expression to which the musicians lived up to: the singing, expressive lines of the wind instruments reminded of the sombre symbolic landscape paintings, and the piano’s damped, ceremonial accents echoed timeless melancholy. The English horn melodies in the end reminded of how beloved the nature mysticism of Sibelius’s music is.”
Auli Särkiö-Pitkänen, Rondo, May 5 2015