composition

Symphony No. 2, “Israel”

for Orchestra

  • Genre
    Orchestra
  • Commissioned by/written for
    Bloomington Symphony Orchestra
  • Year completed
    2004
  • Year revised
  • Timing
    21:00
  • Catalog number
    189
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My Symphony No. 2, “Israel,” was written for the 35th anniversary season of the Bloomington Symphony Orchestra, and was begun on June 30, 2004 and completed on September 10th of that same year. Although the work pays homage to the land of Israel, a country with a rich history, I had no idea of writing a work paying such tribute when I began its composition. After two movements had been completed and the third well begun, a friend pointed out to me the Jewish flavor of the piece, and realizing that my friend was correct, I immediately gave the work its subtitle. Given the genesis of the work, it is not surprising that it makes no use of actual Israeli folk songs or other music, although once I had made the decision regarding its subtitle, I wrote a section of the last movement to feature a shofar (ram’s horn), the instrument used in Jewish temple worship. The usage of an instrument associated so closely with Judaism might seem strange coming from the pen of a Christian composer until one considers that Israel was also the birthplace and home of Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah of Christian faith. Even though there is no program used in the work, a Leitmotif of a steady drumbeat on the timpani occurs in each movement, perhaps suggesting the fact that the threat of war has never been very distant from the tiny land of Israel. The work’s joyous conclusion affirms the triumph of the Jewish people through several thousand years of oppression by various groups. The work is cast in three movements and has a duration of about 22 minutes. The first movement is marked, Allegro Giocoso, and features much use of various scalar passages, with the Lydian mode being particularly prominent. The second movement, marked, Come un fiume che scorre lentamente (Like a gently flowing river) is mostly calm and introspective, but builds to several rather martial climaxes. The third movement, Tempo di Tarantella, is based thematically on the last movement of the composer’s Sonata for Trumpet and Piano (2000), but is not a mere orchestration of that work. It is, rather, a complete reworking of it. Even though there is no program intended, the dance-like character of this movement might suggest an exuberant Israeli festival such as Purim. As in most of my recent works, this symphony utilizes his system of “free tonality,” wherein tonally secure sections are juxtaposed with those more tonally nebulous, with some bordering on—but never quite reaching—atonality. The work can very loosely be considered to be in C Major, an affirmation by the composer that much fresh and original music can still be written within tonal contexts

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