Igor Stravinsky – Symphony in Three Movements (1942-45)

The Symphony in Three Movements is a work by Russian expatriate composer Igor Stravinsky. Stravinsky wrote the symphony from 1942–45 on commission by the Philharmonic Symphony Society of New York. It was premièred by the New York Philharmonic Orchestra under Stravinsky on January 24, 1946.

The Symphony in Three Movements is considered as Stravinsky’s first major composition after emigrating to the United States. It uses material written by Stravinsky for aborted film projects.

In 1943, Stravinsky had begun work on rescoring his ballet The Rite of Spring. Although the project was left incomplete, his revisit to this earlier composition appears to have influenced the symphony. The ostinatos and shock tactics of the last movement, for example, recalls the “Glorification of the Chosen Victim” and “Sacrificial Dance” from The Rite, and some woodwind passages are reminiscent of the ballet’s introduction. On the other hand, there are passages forecasting the opera The Rake’s Progress, notably the openings of the slow movement and the finale.

A typical performance of the symphony lasts 20–25 minutes:

Overture; Allegro (about 10 minutes)
Andante; Interlude: L’istesso tempo (about 6 minutes)
Con moto (about 6 minutes)

The symphony is scored for an orchestra of piccolo, 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 3 clarinets in B♭ and A (3rd doubling bass clarinet), 2 bassoons, contrabassoon, 4 horns, 3 trumpets in C, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, bass drum, piano, harp, violins I & II, violas, cellos, and double basses.

Stravinsky, who rarely acknowledged outside inspirations for his music, referred to the composition as his ‘war symphony’. He claimed the symphony as a direct response to events of the Second World War in both Europe and Asia. The first movement was inspired by a documentary on Japanese scorched earth tactics in China. The third movement deals with footage of German soldiers goosestepping and the allied forces’ mounting success.

Material is drawn from projects that Stravinsky had abandoned or reorganized. The pianoforte’s presence in the first movement stems from a piano concerto that was left incomplete. Music for harp is prominent in the second movement, using themes for a film adaptation of Franz Werfel’s novel The Song of Bernadette. Stravinsky was considered for this project but it was later assigned to Bernard Herrmann. The third movement unites the first two movements by giving equal emphasis to piano and harp.

In contrast to Stravinsky’s earlier Symphony in C, the Symphony in Three Movements is much more turbulent and chromatic. While the Symphony in C is based on abstract ideas, his later symphony makes use of pressing social concerns. From a purely musical standpoint, the Symphony harkens back to Stravinsky’s earlier styles of composition while an outstanding achievement of neoclassicism.










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Conlon Nancarrow – Piece for Ligeti (1988)

If the truth be told, Mr. Nancarrow, born in Texarkana, Ark., but a citizen of Mexico for the last 30 years, has not always been easy to find. He is a gentle and grandfatherly figure; his reputation is that of the mystery man of modern music whose isolation is as much a result of choice as of circumstance. Even now, as acclaim finally descends on him for his pioneering work on the player piano, he remains much better known to his fellow musicians than to the concertgoing public.

The composer and conductor Gyorgy Ligeti, for instance, calls Mr. Nancarrow’s work ”the greatest discovery since Webern and Ives.” Since first coming across some of Mr. Nancarrow’s piano pieces in a Paris record store in 1980, he has vigorously championed Mr. Nancarrow’s jagged and elaborately contrapuntal music, both from the podium and in print.

”His music is so utterly original, enjoyable, constructive and at the same time emotional,” Mr. Ligeti has written. ”For me, it is the best music by any living composer of today.”

Mr. Nancarrow also has acquired, much to his surprise, something of a cult following in the pop music world. The guitarist and composer Frank Zappa, whose own work reflects Mr. Nancarrow’s fondness for dense textures and multiple interweaving melodic lines, says he has been an ardent admirer since 1967, when he was introduced to the composer’s work by Jimi Hendrix’s recording engineer.

Mr. Zappa said that what initially struck him about Mr. Nancarrow’s work was ”that the mechanics of design are often more important than their relation to normal harmonic concepts.” With the passage of time, he added, his appreciation for Mr. Nancarrow’s ”unique spiritual build and expression of character, his willingness to take chances,” has also grown. ”In terms of individualism, I think he ranks up there with Webern, Stravinsky, Varese and Schoenberg,” Mr. Zappa said in a telephone interview from his home in Los Angeles. ”There’s been nothing like him before or after.” [Source]




Philip Glass – Sons of the Silent Age [From the symphony “Heroes”] (1997)

“Heroes,” like the “Low” Symphony of several years ago, is based on the work of David Bowie and Brian Eno. In a series of innovative recordings made in the late 70’s, David and Brian combined influences from world music, experimental avant-garde, and rock’n’roll and thereby redefined the future of popular music. The continuing influence of these works has secured their stature as part of the new “classics” of our time.

Just as composers of the past have turned to music of their time to fashion new works, the work of Bowie and Eno became an inspiration and point of departure for a series of symphonies of my own.

As I have been involved with the world of dance for many years I naturally mentioned the “Heroes” Symphony to the American choreographer Twyla Tharp. Straight away she wanted “Heroes” for her new dance company, and soon after, we met with David. He immediately shared Twyla’s enthusiasm and I found myself writing a symphonic score shortly to become a ballet.

I’ve taken six tracks from the original Bowie / Eno recording and made each of them the basis of a dance work. By combining these themes with original music of my own I ended up with a six movement work which is symphonic in scale and, at the same time, serves the dramatic purpose of Twyla’s ballet. The result, hopefully, will be as enjoyable for the listener at home as well as a new dance work for the stage.

– Philip Glass, New York city, 1996.

Philip has put more of himself in this new album, but the irony is that I believe that he’s actually put his finger on more of my original voice. Hearing this material is a bit like being introduced to a brother or sister that you’ve been told you had, and you weren’t really aware of their existence. And when you do meet them, obviously the very familiarity of the family features registers, but there’s a whole life and all these things have grown up without your knowledge.The music has characteristics that I immediately recognize, but it has its own life. It has nothing to do with me. It’s had all these experiences that I didn’t know about. It really runs the gamut of emotions, from deep despair in “Neuköln” through to that upward spiraling of “V2 Schneider,” and those two particularly for me capture really what I was trying to do. It really excited me. It was though Philip had fed into my voice…but somehow had arrived, I feel, a lot nearer to the gut feeling of what I was trying to do.

– David Bowie.

Music composed by Philip Glass.
From the music of David Bowie and Brian Eno.
Performed by The American Composers Orchestra.
Dennis Russell Davies, principal conductor.
Michael Riesman, associate conductor.
Produced by Kurt Munkacsi and Michael Riesman for Euphorbia Productions, Ltd.
Executive producers: Kurt Munkacsi, Philip Glass and Rory Johnston.
Associate producer: Stephan Farber.
Recorded at The Looking Glass Studios, NYC.
Engineered by Rich Costey.
Assistant engineer: John Billingsley.
Art Direction: Gordon Jee
“Sons ot the Silent Age” written by David Bowie 1977
All films used in this video are the work of Auguste and Louis Lumière.




Anna Thorvaldsdottir – Streaming Arhythmia (2007)

Anna Thorvaldsdottir is a prominent Icelandic composer who holds a PhD from UCSD. She frequently works with large structures of sounds, whether written for instrumental ensembles, soloists, voices, or electronic mediums. Her music tends to portray a flowing world of sounds with an enigmatic lyrical atmosphere. Her music has been described as ambient, dramatic, mystical, and atmospheric. [Source]







Matthew Whiteside – Quartet No. 3 (2011)

Matthew Whiteside is in his final year of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland studying a Masters in Composition with Alistair MacDonald and David Fennessy with previous teachers including Piers Hellawell and Gareth Williams. He is a founding member of Edit-Point and Said Ensemble, both Glasgow based new music ensembles.

Matthew’s interest lies in the combination of acoustic and electronic domains both through using live electronics and electronic influences in his work. When using electronics he is careful to give them a distinct personality in order for it to be an integral part of the ensemble.

He has had performances of his music throughout the UK, Ireland and Italy with notable performances being Dublin’s Nation Concert Hall, Glasgow City Halls and as part of Sonorities Festival in Belfast.

Matthew extends his thanks to the RSAMD/RCS trust and May Turtle scholarship for funding his Masters education.