Variation-Fantasy is a set of free variations for large chamber ensemble based on a theme from the first movement of my Seven Last Words for unaccompanieed violin. The theme is first presented in the first violin and upper strings against a shimmering backdrop. It is transformed and manipulated throughout the piece in a cascade of variations of varied character and style. It was commissioned by the YMF Debut Orchestra of the Young Musicians Foundation.
Rhythm Changes was composed in 2002 for Cologne-based duo lirico, who gave the premiere of the work in January 2003, and was subsequently arranged for violin and orchestra. My preceding works, Dialogues for viola and piano and LINES/ANGLES for orchestra, had been growing in harmonic and melodic complexity. Rhythm Changes represented a shift to a more lighthearted affect and an embrace of my American musical heritage. As the title suggests, it pays homage to Gershwin and to the jazz tradition of building new works on the harmonic progression (“changes”) from “I Got Rhythm”, though highly sublimated. Unable to resist the musical pun, the work is also an exploration of constantly shifting rhythms.
LINES/ANGLES was composed between August and November 2001. The title is reflected both in the surface materials and at the structural level. The materials consist of sustained notes or chords (“lines”) and disjunct melodic gestures (“angles”). The linear sections unfold through shifting timbre, texture, and harmonic density; the angular sections are propelled by rhythm and counterpoint. Initially, the lines and angles are kept separate, but over the course of the piece they are juxtaposed and finally integrated: the angles stretched into lines and the lines reassembled into angles. Structurally, this dichotomy is reified through formal stasis (“lines”) and disjuncture (“angles”).
The final third of the piece was composed in the wake of the September 11 attacks on the United States; indeed, the brutal brass passage was sketched on the very day. I dedicate LINES/ANGLES to the victims of terrorism and of the “War on Terror”.
LINES/ANGLES was commissioned by the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra. It was first performed on February 9, 2002, under the baton of Gary Kulesha.
American Overture is an orchestral overture that reflects my American roots in its references to Rock and jazz. The music is relentlessly kinetic; from the opening bars, it has a drive that is not sated until the final chord. American Overture was first performed on November 7, 2004, by the Filhamonica de Stat “Transilvania”, conducted by Rachael Worby.
Fanfares & Fantasies was composed in 1999 as a commission from Michael Morgan and the Oakland East Bay Symphony to open their 2000 season and to celebrate the new millennium. My intent was to capture that celebration, but to also recognize the complexity of the world at that time; hence the idea of alternating “fanfares” with more introspective “fantasies”, though the work also traces an overall trajectory of darkness to light. The initial fanfare is pained, with dissonant intervals in the trumpets. It leads to a fantasy of swirling colors and disembodied themes. These two initial sections introduce all of the significant thematic material for the work. The second fanfare is yet darker, in the guttural lower register of the trombones. The second fantasy, a mensuration passacaglia (in which a repeated theme accelerates each time it is repeated), begins with a tuba solo followed by a duet for bassoon and muted violas and then cello with woodwinds dancing drunkenly overhead. It builds in intensity through a series of string passages, reaching a climax with the brass that leads directly into the third fanfare which features trumpets and trombones in canonical conversation. This explodes into a virtuosic triple fugue that includes all manner of fugal devices and climaxes to a final fanfare, which is transformed into a luminescent and triumphant F# major.