2009/10METAMORPHOSES for symphony orchestra in 4 movements

METAMORPHOSES for symphony orchestra (2009-10)

The idea of writing a major new work for full symphony orchestra has been with me for some time. During the last decade or so I wrote several works which feature a symphony orchestra, but almost always in combination with either a solo instrument (piano and cello concertos) or other forces (such as Hymn to Ra for choir, soloists and orchestra). I was moved to pursue this ambition with more determination after a performance of my piano concerto Echo 13.7 which was received so well by musicians, conductor, artistic management and audience alike. The experience convinced me that a new work would easily find a home in the orchestra world. That sort of naivety, brought on by an archetypal enthusiasm and desire which so often is the motor of fresh and spontaneous creativity, may be typical of the mind of the artist, but proves to be of little consequence in the realities of today’s musical world, especially in the current brutal political and cultural climate.

Whoever I may eventually be able to win over with this score, will discover that I made extensive use of the experience I gained from my previous excursions into orchestral writing. I feel not only very much at home in the orchestra but love the exquisite variety of colours and textures that it allows for. Moreover, I am always picturing the musical connections that come into being between the musicians when designing a score, however far apart they are spread about in the ensemble. Isn’t this what a score ultimately boils down to: a scenario for interactions between the players?

Four movements constitute four different takes on the concept of metamorphosis. In biology these may be specific transformations of form such as from pupa to butterfly, from tadpole to frog etc. Ovid construed a plethora of transformations in his Metamorphoses, taking wild liberties with Greek mythology. Roughly, the title covers almost anything which undergoes change and, as such, can be stretched to mean a host of things and processes.

The titles of the individual movements mainly feature as labels with some poetic coherence and cover phenomena which all represent or cause transformation of one sort or another. The first movement was originally called Aurora Borealis, which is of course the spectacle of continuous transformations in the Northern Lights. The last movement clearly refers to the dynamics of spring, hence the subtitle which again has the ring of Stravinsky’s masterpiece, duly acknowledged in the Coda and elsewhere. References to other composers come and go but one stands out: Chopin, whose last movement of the great B-flat minor sonata features prominently and unashamedly in the middle of ‘efflorescence’ and gets a subtle make-over with slight touches of orchestral mascara. It is a tribute to the one composer who most illuminated and permeated my musical life from early childhood onward. The third movement can be regarded as the work’s ‘slow movement’ and movement 2 has certain characteristics of a scherzo. We are in symphonic territory.

The four movements are indicated with their theoretical durations:

  1. IRIDESCENCE – 8’23”
  2. INCANDESCENCE – 6’42”
  3. LUMINESCENCE – 8’39”
  4. EFFLORESCENCE – ‘Rise of Spring’ – 8’34”

These make for a total (theoretical) duration of 32’18” which, in practice and taking into account three intervals, amounts to approximately 35 minutes, give or take.

Metamorphoses was written with financial assistance from the Nederlands Fonds voor de Podiumkunsten (Performing Arts Fund NL).