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Concertos

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  • Krakatoa (2017) 20’ • solo viola, strings, percussion
    INSTRUMENTATION
    Solo viola, strings (suggested size: 12,10,8,6,4), timpani, 3 percussion

    Mvmt. 1: Imminent
    Mvmt 2: Eruption
    Mvmt. 3: Dormant

    VIDEO
    Michael Hall, viola, and the Bandung Philharmonic; Robert Nordling, conductor

    Violist Michael Hall and maestro Robert Nordling have exclusive performance rights until 8/1/18.

    COMMISSIONER
    Barlow Endowment

    PROGRAM NOTES
    On May 20, 1883, a cloud of ash rose six miles high above Krakatoa, a volcano nestled on an island in the Sunda Strait between Java and Sumatra. For the next two months, the volcano rumbled and spewed occasional dust and debris into the air, giving nearby inhabitants a spectacular show. On August 26th, Krakatoa turned deadly with an enormous blast that spewed pyroclastic flows (a blend of ash, lava, and gases) and pumice (lava that mixes with water and solidifies quickly into rock), and commenced a series of eruptions. On the next day, the volcano produced four enormous eruptions over four and a half hours. These eruptions were so loud (particularly the fourth) that they could be heard 3,000 miles away, and so devastating that two-thirds of the island sank back under the sea. The effects of Krakatoa’s eruptions were staggering: they sent shock waves into the atmosphere that circled the globe at least seven times; they triggered numerous tsunamis, the highest nearly 120 feet tall, which flooded and destroyed 165 coastal villages along with their inhabitants; and they propelled tons of ash roughly fifty miles up into the atmosphere. This ash blotted out the sun in Indonesia for days; it also lowered global temperatures for several years afterwards, and produced a wide range of atmospheric colors and phenomena. At least 36,000 people tragically lost their lives that fateful day. For the next forty-four years, Krakatoa was silent below the sea. This silence ended in 1927, when fishermen spotted steam and debris rising from the island. Within a year, a new volcano began to take shape above sea level. This new volcano is named Anak Krakatau, which translates to “child of Krakatoa,” and periodically experiences small eruptions.

    Krakatoa for solo viola, strings, and percussion follows the path of the volcano’s four main eruptions. In the first movement, Imminent, the violist uneasily plays as the orchestra (representing the volcano) shows ever-increasing signs of awakening. The orchestra bursts forth into the second movement, Eruption, where it proceeds through four eruptions that get progressively more cataclysmic. After the final and most violent eruption, the violist plays a cadenza that eases the volcano into the third movement, Dormant. In this final movement, the volcano slumbers, with a hint of Anak Krakatau forming under the sea. The movement ends peacefully with an array of string harmonics, representing the intense and brilliantly colored sunsets generated by Krakatoa’s ash in the earth’s atmosphere.

    Krakatoa was commissioned by the Barlow Endowment for Music Composition at Brigham Young University.

    -S.G.

  • Quicksilver (2017) 24’ • solo alto saxophone, wind ensemble
    Mvmt. 1:
    Antics of a Newborn God
    Mvmt. 2:
    Guiding Souls to the Underworld
    Mvmt. 3:
    Messenger of Olympus

    VIDEO
    Jonathan Hulting-Cohen, saxophone, and the University of Massachusetts Wind Ensemble; Matthew Westgate, conductor

    All consortium members hold exclusive performance and commercial recording rights until 5/30/19.

    COMMISSIONERS
    • Appalachian State University • John Stanley Ross, conductor • Scott Kallestad, saxophone
    • Arizona State University • Gary W. Hill, conductor • Christopher Creviston, saxophone
    • Baylor University • J. Eric Wilson, conductor • Michael N. Jacobson, saxophone
    • Butler University and the Butler University chapter of Kappa Kappa Psi • Michael J. Colburn, conductor • Heidi Radtke, saxophone
    • Carthage College • James Ripley, conductor • Andrew Carpenter, saxophone
    • Louisiana State University • Damon Talley, conductor • Griffin Campbell, saxophone
    • Penn State University and the Margot Music Fund • Dennis Glocke, conductor • David Stambler, saxophone
    • SUNY Potsdam • Brian K. Doyle, conductor (head of consortium) • Casey Grev, saxophone
    • University of Alabama • Kenneth Ozzello, conductor • Jonathan Noffsinger, saxophone
    • University of Massachusetts Amherst • Matthew Westgate, conductor • Jonathan Hulting-Cohen, saxophone
    • University of Michigan at Ann Arbor • Michael Haithcock, conductor • Timothy McAllister, saxophone
    • University of Nebraska-Lincoln • Carolyn Barber, conductor • Paul Haar, saxophone
    • University of North Carolina at Greensboro • John R. Locke and Kevin M. Geraldi, conductors • Steven Stusek, saxophone
    • University of Oregon • Rodney Dorsey, conductor • Idit Shner, saxophone
    • University of South Carolina • Scott Weiss, conductor • Clifford Leaman, saxophone

    PROGRAM NOTES
    In addition to being another name for the element mercury, “quicksilver” is used to describe something that changes quickly or is difficult to contain. My concerto of the same name was inspired by the Roman god Mercury, as well as the mercurial nature of the saxophone: unpredictable, very lively, and volatile. Mercury (known as Hermes in Greek mythology) is best known for his winged shoes, which allowed him to fly swiftly as the messenger of his fellow Olympians. Mercury had other duties too, including serving as the god of merchants, travelers, and tricksters; he also ushered souls of the departed to the Underworld.

    Quicksilver tells three tales of the Roman god. The first movement (Antics of a Newborn God) opens with the birth of Mercury; after he takes his first steps, he toddles around, gleefully looking for mischief. He stumbles across a herd of cows that belong to his brother Apollo; Mercury slyly lets the cows out of their pen before toddling onward with his mischief-making. In the second movement (Guiding Souls to the Underworld), Pluto, god of the Underworld, bids Mercury to bring him fresh souls. The movement begins with death-knells tolling for humans who are about to die; Mercury picks up these souls and leads them down to the gates of the Underworld. The third and final movement (Messenger of Olympus) depicts Mercury as he is busily running errands for various gods and goddesses. We first encounter him mid-flight as he dashes to earth to find Aeneas, a Trojan lieutenant who had been run out of Troy by the invading Greeks. Aeneas is on a quest to find land on which to establish a new city that would eventually become Rome. While traveling, he is distracted from his quest when he meets the beautiful queen Dido. They live together for many years before Mercury intervenes; he chastises Aeneas for giving up on his quest and persuades him to pick it up again. As Aeneas mournfully resumes his journey, we hear Dido perish of a broken heart. Mercury then takes to the skies to seek out Perseus, who is preparing to kill the Medusa, the hideous gorgon who has snakes for hair and a gaze that turns those who catch her glance into stone. Mercury advises Perseus on how to slay Medusa and lends Perseus his sword to do the deed. We hear Perseus victorious in the beheading of Medusa, after which Mercury takes to the skies once more to fly home to Olympus.

    Quicksilver was commissioned by Appalachian State University, Arizona State University, Baylor University, Butler University, Carthage College, Louisiana State University, Penn State University, SUNY Postdam, University of Alabama, University of Massachusetts Amherst, University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, niversity, Baylor University, Butler University, Carthage College, Louisiana State University, Penn State University, SUNY Postdam, University of Alabama, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, University of Oregon, and University of South Carolina.

    -S.G.

    PERFORMANCES
    10/18/17: Crane Wind Ensemble at SUNY Potsdam, NY (world premiere)
    4/14/18: University of Massachusetts Amherst Wind Ensemble at the 36th Annual New England Saxophone Symposium, MA
    4/19/18: University of South Carolina Wind Ensemble, Colombia, SC
    4/26/18: Butler University Wind Ensemble, Indianapolis, IN
    5/10/18: University of Oregon Wind Ensemble, Beall Concert Hall, Eugene, OR
    9/27/18: University of Alabama Wind Ensemble, Tuscaloosa, AL

    3/17/19: Carthage Wind Orchestra, Kenosha, WI
    4/22/19: University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE