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126 Variations on "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star"

Michael Kieran Harvey performs 126 variations by Julian Yu on the theme Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. Julian Yu's project presents the tune in an immense range of styles, many of which develop out of well-known classical pieces, as well as jazz and folk music.

The collection is designed to demonstrate the many different approaches to composition in classical music styles as well as popular and folk music genres from different countries.

The first pieces in the collection demonstrate a myriad of compositional techniques, including counterpoint, harmony, methods of melodic development, textures and figuration, tonality and atonality.

Listeners will recognise many of the later pieces in the collection as deliberate (and often hilarious) parodies of well-known works. These range from Baroque, Classical and Romantic works, with a brief nod to the popular and jazz repertoire, through to 20th century works including pieces from the 12-tone serialist and minimalist schools. The album concludes with imitations of the folk music of several Asian countries.


Michael Kieran Harvey

Australian pianist and composer, Dr Michael Kieran Harvey FAHA, is one of the foremost interpreters of contemporary piano music of his generation. A champion of Australian music and himself a composer, he regularly commissions new Australian music and has performed with Australia's leading contemporary music ensembles and orchestras.

Press quote

““Julian Yu’s 126 Variations on Twinkle Twinkle Little Star for piano is a tour de force of compositional craft, brilliantly interpreted by pianist Michael Kieran Harvey.”

Julian Yu has already had significant success with his variations on Twinkle Twinkle Little Star as a pedagogical sheet music publication first in Japan and then in China. The work showcases the myriad of compositional techniques that composers have traditionally brought to the theme and variations genre; and being a theme of only six short seven-note phases, it lends itself to this extraordinary number of variational exercises. The result is a major work that can be encompassed within the span of a standard concert program but not quite within the span of one CD. The remainder of the second CD comprises yet another unusual arrangement experiment: Yu has written (with the necessary permissions) a second piano part to thirty-eight of Dmitri Kabalevsky’s Pieces for Children (mainly from Op 39 and Op. 27), again with the intention of parading his palette of compositional/arrangement techniques. Variations on “‘Twinkle Twinkle” have been tackled by composers as diverse as Mozart and Alvin and the Chipmunks, but none with the same exhaustive and (some might say) exhausting result as Julian Yu. In order to get some order into his enterprise Yu has grouped his efforts under headings such as “counterpoint”, “harmony”, “texture and figuration”, “some tricks”, “composers and genres”, “tonality and atonality”, “twelve-tone and serialism”, boundless possibilities”, “popular music” and “folk music”. The earlier contrapuntal, harmonic, textural and “trick” variations are well crafted but rather staid with the exception of a rather brilliant Bach-styled invention (track 15). When we get to the “composers and genres”, Yu’s talent of stylistic parody shines through with variations based on canonical works. The best of these are treatments of Bach’s “Prelude in C minor, Book 1”, Vivaldi’s “Spring”, Saint-Saëns’ “Dance Macabre”, Puccini’s “Nessun Dorma”, Rachmaninov’s “Prelude in G Minor” and Copland’s “Rodeo”.

Yu’s variations using bitonal, atonal, serial and symmetrical scale techniques are also very clever and aurally attractive.

With the exception of his ragtime parody, the five movements in the “popular” category fall a bit flat, but Yu’s decorative approach in his Japanese, Korean, Indonesian and Chinese variations provides a fitting end to the monumental work.

As for the Kabalevsky, Yu’s approach is reverential rather than in any way imposing or inappropriately flamboyant.

Michael Kieran Harvey’s performances are very impressive. It is wonderful to hear the subtlety of his playing of simple textures (even single lines) because we are so used to hearing him play dazzling virtuosic music. Particularly impressive is the flawless rhythmic flow of his overdubbing of the second piano part in the Kabalevsky pieces.”

Read full review

— Michael Hannan, Music Trust Website

Track Listing

  1. Twinkle Twinkle Little Star (TTLS) theme Julian Yu
  2. TTLS Complete theme Julian Yu
  3. Counterpoint - First species Julian Yu
  4. Counterpont - Second Species Julian Yu
  5. Counterpoint - Third Species Julian Yu
  6. Counterpoint - Fourth Species Julian Yu
  7. Counterpoint - Fifth Species Julian Yu
  8. TTLS Canon Julian Yu
  9. TTLS invertible Julian Yu
  10. TTLS Non-imatative counterpoint Julian Yu
  11. TTLS Invertible non-imitative counterpoint Julian Yu
  12. Signature motifs 2 voices Julian Yu
  13. Signature motifs 3 voices Julian Yu
  14. J.S. Bach's famous theme with the cantus firmus Julian Yu

  15. TTLS with the cantus firmus
  16. TTLS Invention
  17. Kleine Fugue
  18. TTLS harmonised with primary triads Julian Yu
  19. TTLS harmonised with primary triads, altered melody Julian Yu
  20. TTLS Non-harmonic tones Julian Yu
  21. TTLS Harmonic sequence Julian Yu
  22. TTLS Secondary dominants Julian Yu
  23. TTLS Suspension Julian Yu
  24. TTLS Chromatic passing (1) Julian Yu
  25. TTLS Chromatic passing (2) Julian Yu
  26. TTLS Harmonic progression Julian Yu
  27. TTLS Quartal chords Julian Yu
  28. TTLS Pentatonic Scale Julian Yu
  29. TTLS Alberti bass Julian Yu
  30. TTLS Allegro appassionato (Ballade in G minor Op. 23 by Chopin) Julian Yu
  31. TTLS Allegro delicato Julian Yu
  32. TTLS Tempo di gavotta Julian Yu
  33. TTLE Andante affetuoso alla Liszt Julian Yu
  34. TTLE Moderato grazioso a Mendelsssohn Julian Yu
  35. TTLS A la polonaise Julian Yu
  36. TTLS Tempo di valse (Strauss) Julian Yu
  37. TTLS Moderato e con grandezza Julian Yu
  38. TTLS Song without voice - music for the left hand alone Julian Yu
  39. TTLS melodic development Julian Yu
  40. TTLS Palindrome Julian Yu
  41. TTLS Scherzino Julian Yu
  42. TTLS Black and White Julian Yu
  43. TTLS Golden Star Dance Julian Yu
  44. TTLS Crab Canon Julian Yu
  45. TTLS Cran Canon - full Julian Yu
  46. TTLS Quodlibet Julian Yu
  47. TTLS Dovetailing (Frère Jacques) Julian Yu
  48. Is Jacques still asleep? Julian Yu
  49. Bach Prelude Julian Yu
  50. Guilio Cannini Ave Maria Julian Yu
  51. Pachelbel Canon Julian Yu
  52. Vivaldi Spring Julian Yu
  53. Schumber "Impromoments Musical" Julian Yu
  54. Hanon "Canon on Hanon" Julian Yu
  55. Mozart 'Rondao alla Twinka" Julian Yu
  56. Shostakovich Piano Concerto No. 1 Julian Yu
  57. Bartók in Bagpipers style Julian Yu
  58. Beethoven "Für Estelle" Julian Yu
  59. Strauss Radetzky March Julian Yu
  60. Bizet Habanera from Carmen Julian Yu
  61. Ravel Bolero Julian Yu
  62. Saint-Saëns Danse Macabre Julian Yu
  63. Grieg "Edvard's Dance" Julian Yu
  64. Chopin Étude Julian Yu
  65. Khachaturian Toccata Julian Yu
  66. Dvorak "Little Star over the New World" Julian Yu
  67. Tchaikovsky Rondo Julian Yu
  68. Rimsky Korsakov Sheherazade Julian Yu
  69. Mussorgsky "Preview of Pictures at an Exhibition" Julian Yu
  70. Brahms Symphony No. 1 Julian Yu
  71. Schumann Carnaval and Piano Concerto in A minor Julian Yu
  72. Liszt "Little Star Rhapsody" Julian Yu
  73. Debussy "Faun in Moonlit Snow" Julian Yu
  74. Gershwin "Rap in Light Blue" Julian Yu
  75. Puccini Nessun Dorma Julian Yu
  76. Rachmaninov Prelude in G minor Julian Yu
  77. Prokofiev "Three Oranges" Julian Yu
  78. Copland "Rodeo Rhythm" Julian Yu
  79. Canon using bitonality (minor 9th) Julian Yu
  80. Canon using bitonality (major 7th) Julian Yu
  81. Canon using bitonality (major 6th) Julian Yu
  82. TTLS with contrasting melody in a different key Julian Yu
  83. TTLS with contrasting melody and harmony in different keys Julian Yu
  84. TTLS harmonised with increased dissonance Julian Yu
  85. TTLS A free atonal harmonizations Julian Yu
  86. TTLS two strands of parallel triads Julian Yu
  87. TTLS two strands of parallel triads (mirror image) Julian Yu
  88. TTLS The twelve-tone series Julian Yu
  89. Sad story Julian Yu
  90. Twinkle Twinkle is not "in tune" Julian Yu
  91. Schoenberg in Gavotte style Julian Yu
  92. Webern "pointillism" Julian Yu
  93. Berg Sonata Julian Yu

Disc 2

  1. TTLS Modes of limited transposition Julian Yu
  2. Messiaen "Étoiles Exotiques" Julian Yu
  3. Joji Yuasa Cosmos Haptic Julian Yu
  4. Takemitsu "Uninterupted Song of Love" Julian Yu
  5. Ligeti "Con Spirito" Julian Yu
  6. Stravinsky "The Soldier's March" Julian Yu
  7. Witold Lutoslawski Taniec Julian Yu
  8. Kabalevisky Clowns Op. 30 No. 20 Julian Yu
  9. TTLS Minimalism Minitude Julian Yu
  10. TTLS Notation Phantasy Julian Yu
  11. Using numbers of find a new rhythm Julian Yu
  12. TTLS new rhythm Julian Yu
  13. TTLS Reinvention Julian Yu
  14. TTLS Tone Cluster and Graphic Notation Julian Yu
  15. Sudden Incident Julian Yu
  16. Astralita - My Little Star in the style of Julian Yu Julian Yu
  17. TTLS Bagatelle Julian Yu
  18. Pentatude Julian Yu
  19. Autumn Evening Julian Yu
  20. Ancient Pool Julian Yu
  21. TTLS Disco Julian Yu
  22. TTLS Ragtime Julian Yu
  23. TTLS Boogie Julian Yu
  24. TTLS Jazz Julian Yu
  25. TTLS Blues Julian Yu
  26. "Star-kura" Julian Yu
  27. "The Stars are High" Julian Yu
  28. Chinese Folk Ornamentation Julian Yu
  29. Heteraphony in Chinese music Julian Yu
  30. Beat in Peking Opera Julian Yu
  31. stAr-irang (Korean folk song Arirang) Julian Yu
  32. "The Starlark" Julian Yu
  33. Philogamelania Julian Yu
  34. Finale - Passacaglia Julian Yu
  35. Pieces for Children for two pianos Dmitri Kabalevsky

  36. Little Song, Op. 39: No. 1
  37. Short Polka, Op. 39: No. 2
  38. Marching Tune, Op. 39: No. 3
  39. Lullaby, Op. 39: No. 4
  40. Play, Op. 39: No. 5
  41. Short Scherzo, Op. 39: No. 6
  42. A Funny Event, Op. 39: No. 7
  43. Melody, Op. 39: No. 8
  44. Dance, Op. 39: No. 9
  45. March, Op.39: No. 10
  46. Autumn Song, Op. 39: No. 11
  47. Joke, Op. 39: No. 12
  48. Waltz Op. 39: No. 13
  49. Little Fairy Tale, Op. 39: No. 14
  50. Race, Op. 39: No. 15
  51. Sad Story (1), Op. 39: No.16
  52. Folk Dance, Op. 39: No. 17
  53. Gallop, Op. 39: No. 18
  54. Prelude, Op. 39: No. 19
  55. Clowns, Op. 39: No. 20
  56. Improvisations, Op. 39: No. 21
  57. Novelete, Op. 39: No. 22
  58. Slow Waltz, Op. 39: No. 23
  59. Happy Journey, Op. 39: No. 24
  60. Cross-Patch, Op. 89: No. 12
  61. A little Hedgehog, Op. 89: No. 8
  62. My Little Stubborn Brother, Op. 89: No. 27
  63. Dance, Op. 27: No. 27
  64. A Little Prank, Op. 27: No. 13
  65. Sad Story (2), Op. 27: No. 6
  66. Dramatic Fragment, Op. 27: No. 30
  67. Ditty, Op. 27: No. 2
  68. Meadow Dance Op. 17: No. 17
  69. Fairy Tale, Op. 27: No. 20
  70. Song of the Cavalry, Op. 27: No. 29
  71. Playing Ball, Op. 27: No. 1
  72. Waltz Time, Op. 27: No. 1
  73. Étude, Op. 27: No. 26



Julian Yu

The multi-award winning Australian composer Julian Yu employs a musical language imbued with a high degree of elegance and expressiveness, which are both enhanced by an impeccable craft and special attention to detail.

Where to buy

126 Variations on "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" is available for download from the iTunes Music Store.
It's available for streaming through Apple Music.

126 Variations on "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" is available as as CD. It can be purchased online through Buywell Music or the Australian Music Centre which both offer secure online ordering.

Move CDs can be ordered through music retailers across Australia including Readings.

Product details

List price
$25.00 AUD
Release date
November 2015
© 2015 Move Records
℗ 2015 Move Records
Catalogue number
MD 3404
Alternate catalogue number
EAN 9314574340426