contemporary symphony orchestra

For my next article I decided to switch it up and present a larger-scale work. This is a 10-minute orchestral work which I wrote in the beginning of this year which I will likely turn into the first movement of a symphony, though the rest has not yet been written.

In writing this, I wanted to create a large-scale work that would fit the traditions of a first movement of a symphony, but have a more gentle style the typical fanfare-like beginnings. I was not inspired by any particular composer, but in hindsight I see influences from composers such as Tchaikovsky and Strauss.

Written based on simple sonata form, this piece’s primary theme is based on the motif of a dropping tone from B to A, which is soon developed by the oboe gentle disjunct rhythmically ambiguous melody, which is then repeated and further developed by the flute. After a quite dramatic set of build-ups and diminuendos, the piece takes a turn for the chromatic with a bridge section marked Mystérieusement which leads us to the second theme, a simple B major melody accompanied by a quieter countermelody.

The point at which I start the development section is up for debate – I abruptly interrupt this second theme to provide a climactic Majestueux return of the first theme followed by a dénouement in which the orchestra highlights the tonic key with a serious of D major chords in semibreve/whole note and triplet rhythms. One could also argue, however, that my development begins with the clarinet/viola duet at bar 106. One should remember when analysing a piece that a composer neither analyses their own piece while writing it nor limits themself to the restrictions of a specific form.

The development lasts a relatively short amount of time by my standards, but to make up there is quite a lot more elements of development in the exposition and recapitulation sections, especially with regard to the first theme.

At the end, I suppose you could say I failed at avoiding the fanfare-like style, with a massive melodramatic fanfare-like ending. To my defence, however, I did say I only wanted to avoid the fanfare-like beginnings.

Richard B. ( @you-had-me-at-e-flat-major )

Made with SoundCloud

Photographed by Peter Xiong

Berklee Contemporary Symphony Orchestra and Boston Conservatory Symphony Orchestra joint rehearsal.  This happened to promote the merger between Berklee and Boston Conservatory.

We played Forest Gump Suite, Indiana Jones main theme, and the Berceuse and Finale of Firebird.

Chamber Music demands of a composer the most impeccable technique and depth of thought. I don’t think I will be wrong if I say that composers sometimes hide their poverty-stricken ideas behind the brilliance of orchestral sound. The timbral riches which are at the disposal of the contemporary symphony orchestra are inaccessible to the small chamber ensemble. Thus, to write a chamber work is much harder than to write an orchestral one.
—  Dmitri Shostakovich

Jordan Hall at NEC

I went to the Berklee Contemporary Symphony Orchestra show last night. It was really good - especially for a free show. They started the show with a student composition (8 de Febrer by Vincente Ortiz Gimeno). It was fun, dynamic, and surprisingly professional sounding.

After that they played Schubert’s Symphony No. 8. It was good, and I recognized more phrases in it than I thought I would. I was also surpised to read in the program that Schubert died at 31 years old. The conductor made a big deal about how young Schubert was when he wrote his material…of course so was Mozart (who died at 35), anyway…

Then there were two pieces by modern composers - Halcyon Sun by Jonathan Bailey Holland and Fantasy on a River Theme by John Patitucci. I enjoyed parts of Halcyon Sun, but I felt a bit like JBH was playing with meter mostly to test the orchestra/show off that he has a Ph.D. from Harvard. The orchestra handled all of the rhythms fine, but I felt like I couldn’t enjoy the piece when I was so worried that someone was going to play a note at the wrong time. It was unfortunate because there were some interesting harmonic ideas being played in the less ‘academic’ parts of the piece.

I’m not a big bass guitar nerd, so I sat through the JP piece politely while I waited for the next piece - which I didn’t even know about until I read the program, but once I saw it listed I was happy that I made the trek into Boston….

THE NFL MADDEN THEME by Aubrey Hodges :-) It was so awesome. BCSO really rocked out on that one. They even had an electric guitar player. I would gladly go to a night at Symphony Hall with a program full of orchestral 'football music’ like the CBS theme (with the minor key 'serious music’ for when a player is hurt and they’re going to commercial, haha).

Then I sat through 'Theme of Schindler’s List’ by John Williams - which was well played, but obviously pretty depressing. I think they should have gone directly from the football music to the next piece…

Star Wars Theme by John Williams - My favorite piece of the night. Big bombastic orchestral movie music sounds so amazing live (and in an acoustically great space like Jordan Hall…From Wikipedia: It is one block from Boston’s Symphony Hall, and together they are considered two of America’s most acoustically perfect performance spaces.). If I knew no one would have seen or heard me I would have jumped out of my seat at the end of the piece with my fist in the air (I’m a super-dork), but I kept it demure and clapped at the end :-)

After the show I went up the street to the Trident (where else) for a late dinner: half a tuna melt sandwich, chicken and rice soup, and ginger-lemon tea with honey…from the bear shaped bottle.

There are a lot of free and cheap events over the next few weeks since Berklee, NEC, BoCo, and others are wrapping up spring semester and getting ready for graduation in May. I’ll try to make some time to get out to a few more.