for full orchestra

  1. Canons I
  2. Pastorale
  3. Canons II
Canons I
Canons II

Premiered May 7, 2019 by the Oberlin Chamber Orchestra
Raphael Jimenez, conductor

Finished in 2019, Canons is a three-movement extrapolation of a variation I wrote in 2017 based around a melody used in the second of Zoltán Kodály’s Seven Piano Pieces, Op. 11. The melody appears in some form in all three movements, but becomes warped beyond recognition as the piece progresses.

The first and third movements, both titled “Canons”, explore similar material through different lenses. In the first, canons are constructed directly from the Kodály melody, which is first intoned by a solo oboe before spreading out into huge sonic clouds throughout the wind section. As these clouds ebb and flow above, a slow fragmented chord progression moves in the low strings. In the second “Canons”, this structure is inverted—the sonic clouds are in the low horns as the chord progression floats above.

The bulk of the piece is in its central movement, Pastorale. Pastorale here refers not to any specific rhythmic or metrical structure, nor to a reference to a classical topic, but rather the mood that pervades the movement. This is not idyllic pastoralism like that of Vaughan Williams or Beethoven. Instead, I turned to a darker and more austere vision of the countryside inspired by Gustav Holst’s evocation of the lonely and barren English landscape in works such as Egdon Heath. This stylistic inspiration combined with memories of long evening walks through the fields and trails outside of Oberlin to produce an expressive complement to the vast textures in the two Canons movements. Canons are still employed in this movement much as they are in the other two, but these weave with new melodies and textures to form a more structurally complex centerpiece to the work.

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