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For Orchestra

By Steven Stucky

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Orchestra 3 Percussions, Bass Clarinet in Bb, Bassoon 1, Bassoon 2, Bassoon 3, Clarinet 1 in Bb, Clarinet 2 in Bb, Clarinet 3 in Bb, Contrabass, Contrabassoon, English Horn, Flute 1, Flute 2, Flute 3 (alto Flute), Harp, Horn 1 in F, Horn 2 in F and more.
For Orchestra. Composed by Steven Stucky (1949-2016). Sws. Choosing to call a new work a symphony also means confronting the genres long, intimidating history and its powerful traditions. It is a history ineluctably tied to older eras the Classical (Haydn, Beethoven) and the Romantic (Berlioz, Brahms) and tied, t. Contemporary. Full score (study). With Standard notation. Composed July 10 2012. 72 pages. Duration 20 minutes. Theodore Presser Company #446-41289. Published by Theodore Presser Company (PR.446412890).

Item Number: PR.446412890

ISBN 9781598064827. 9 x 12 inches.

Commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the New York Philharmonic, Stucky approached his Symphony with some trepidation. The very word symphony evokes centuries of meaning, an almost ultimate weight for a composer. Stucky had early on written four symphonies, all of which have since been withdrawn. Now, he determined to embrace his own history with the symphonic tradition to bring forth a new narrative.
Choosing to call a new work a symphony also means confronting the genres long, intimidating history and its powerful traditions. It is a history ineluctably tied to older eras the Classical (Haydn, Beethoven) and the Romantic (Berlioz, Brahms) and tied, too, to the materials and means of those older eras: strong melodic themes, well-defined formal patterns, developmental techniques. Thus to the extent that symphonies did continue to flourish in the twentieth century, they did so largely among the less modernist, more traditional masters: Mahler, Sibelius, Elgar, Nielsen, Rachmaninov, Vaughan Williams, Tippett, Prokofiev, Shostakovich, Copland, Harris, Schuman, Honegger, Martinu, Henze. It is true that a few progressive composers such as Lutoslawski put some of their most important effort into symphonies; indeed his Symphony No. 4 was his last major work. But it is also telling that there are no symphonies by Birtwistle, Boulez, Ligeti, Lindberg, or Salonen. There are no symphonies by Ades, Lachenmann, or Sciarrino. There are none by Takemitsu, none by Kurtag. So what does it mean for a composer of my generation to haul the title Symphony out of his closet in 2012? I myself had written four symphonies before the age of thirty (two of them juvenilia, the other two more advanced student works, all of them now withdrawn), but then I turned my back on the idea for another thirty years. Not that I abandoned the medium of the symphony orchestra, which has remained my artistic home. But many of my works over these past thirty years have been coloristic: the image-driven Pinturas de Tamayo, for example, or Impromptus, or Son et lumiere. Several have been concertos with soloists; three more concertos have made the orchestra itself the star. More recently, I have been drawn to single-movement orchestral forms that combine several sections of different moods and tempos into one large, encompassing musical journey, such as Radical Light (Los Angeles Philharmonic 2007) and Silent Spring (Pittsburgh Symphony 2011). I guess we would have to call such works tone poems or symphonic poems (even without overt extra-musical programs), though those terms too fall quaintly on the postmodern ear. At the same time, one would have to notice that their aims and methods are not so very different from one-movement symphonies like the Sibelius Symphony No. 7 or the Barber Symphony No. 1. My new Symphony is much like Radical Light and Silent Spring: a single expanse of music (here about 20 minutes) that travels through a series of emotional landscapes, depositing us at the end of our journey in a different place from where we set out. Why symphony, then? Perhaps the very word is meant to assert that its time for me to face squarely my own relation to the symphonic tradition? Perhaps its a call for gravitas, an ambition to treat the material more symphonically, including the possibility that ideas might return, develop, evolve? The narrative is a purely musical one (no Mahler- or Tchaikovsky-style personal confessions), but it is a narrative no less personal, dramatic, or emotional. In Introduction and Hymn, we begin with lonely woodwind solos, led by the oboe and later by the flute, which swell then into billows of woodwind texture before delivering us onto the shore of a slowly developing, hymn-like brass chorale. Very suddenly, the peaceful conclusion of this first section is interrupted by a two-note motif signaling the second section, Outcry. Something has gone terribly wrong: music of hope and peace has been replaced by music of turmoil, even anguish. Spurred on again and again by the two-note motif, this music becomes ever faster and more agitated, hurtling toward the third section, Flying. Now it is as if the orchestra (and we along for the ride) has broken free of the emotional clutches of the second section and can really let itself go in fast, virtuoso playing. (This is the only section that corresponds neatly to a conventional symphony movement, namely a scherzo.) When this fast music has worked itself into as frenzied and as glittery a state as it can manage, suddenly it gives way to the final Hymn and Reconciliation: massive string chords against which, one by one, earlier musics return. We hear the brass hymn and the woodwind billows from the first section, the turbulent theme from the second section now recollected in tranquility, and finally the two-note outcry motif, once anguished but now serene. The Symphony was composed January-July 2012. It was commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association, Gustavo Dudamel, Music Director, with major support provided by Lenore S. and Bernard Greenberg (world premiere 28-30 September 2012); and by the New York Philharmonic, Alan Gilbert, Music Director, with major support provided by the Francis Goelet Fund (New York premiere 29-30 November and 1 December 2012).

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