Spring Fever: Symphonic Metamorphosis

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The symphony has undergone such transformation since it first emerged as a conventional form hundreds of years ago. Concluding Carnegie Hall's Spring for Music festival, Kent Nagano and the Montréal Symphony Orchestra explore the evolution of the symphony beginning with Giovanni Gabrieli's Sacrae Symphoniae for Brass and finishing with Anton Webern's Symphony, Op. 21. This evening, May 14 from 5 to 8pm, Q2 responds with our own take on this large-scale form as it has transformed into the twenty-first century.

Up through the romantic period, the symphony was highly regarded as the pinnacle of a composer's output and as such, it was an intimidating challenge to create such a defining work. Brahms, for instance, spent at least fourteen years fastidiously working and re-working his first symphony because of the looming shadow of Beethoven's epic Ninth Symphony.

The contemporary take on the symphony holds the form less as a monumental work; prior to writing his Symphony In Waves, Aaron Jay Kernis viewed it as outdated and irrelevant. Rather than following in the footsteps of his predecessors, Kernis chose to define the form for himself as did Peteris Vasks who uses his Symphony for Strings "Voices" as an outlet to reflect on political events in the Baltic states and their effects on humans and the environment. Einojuhani Rautavaara's Symphony No. 7 "Angel of Light" is part of the composers' Angel Series inspired by childhood dreams and revelations.

Both Philip Glass and Aulis Sallinen chose to put their own spin on the symphonic form by deviating from the traditional fast-slow-fast tempo scheme. The first movement of Glass's Symphony No. 8 is weightiest, clocking in at twenty minutes, the second movement is a passacaglia and the third is a brief, seven minute conclusion to the work as a whole. Aulis Sallinen's Washington Mosaics is a five-movement piece: three Intermezzos bookended by two large movements.


Aaron Jay Kernis: Symphony in Waves
Gerard Schwarz, conductor
New York Chamber Symphony

Peteris Vasks: Symphony for Strings, "Voices"
Gidon Kremer, violin
Kremerata Baltica

Einojuhani Rautavaara: Symphony No. 7, "Angel of Light"
Leif Segerstam, conductor
Helsinki Philharmonic

Philip Glass: Symphony No. 8
Dennis Russell Davies, conductor
Bruckner Orchestra Linz

Aulis Sallinen: Symphony No. 5, "Washington Mosaics"
Ari Rasilainen, conductor
Deutsche Staatsphilharmonie Rheinland-Pfalz

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