SUITE FOR STRING ORCHESTRA

Written: 1995
Duration: 15'
Instrumentation: string orchestra
Commissioned by Kirsten Marshall and the Ithaca Talent Education school. Partially funded by the New Music USA's Composer Assistance Program.
Premiere: Ithaca Talent Education, Ithaca College, Ford Hall, Ithaca, NY, May 11, 2002. 
World Premiere RecordingIthaca Talent Education – Bach to the Future (Independent Release)
PublisherBill Holab Music

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Program Note

Unlike some of my previous works, Suite for String Orchestra is not inspired by an over-arching programmatic theme. Although there are some technical and motivic relationships between some of the movements—particularly the first and fifth—the movements are generally unrelated and are meant to be noticeably distinct. It is in five short movements and is intentionally written in an “old-fashioned,” somewhat archaic style. I initially played around with the idea of titling this work Old-fashioned Suite or Old Time Suite, but there seems to be a sufficient sprinkling of “new fangled ideas” in this work to make these alternative titles seem inadequate.

The first movement, Allegro vivace, is written in a “mid-20th century American” style. My model for a few of the sections in this movement is the evocative, German phrase Sturm und Drang, which literally translated means “storm and stress.”

In the second movement, Trapped waltz, I imagine an ethereal, yet cognizant waltz floating above the stratosphere, looking for a place to rest, but hobbled and shackled by a pounding rock and roll drumset. I see this as a metaphor for the various dances throughout history that have come and gone but are continually vying for attention in contemporary culture. The movement fades out at the end, as if the waltz is eternally looking for a place to settle down. Admittedly, I was somewhat inspired by the collage works of Charles Ives.

The third movement, Nocturne, begins slowly and sadly, and I imagine the pulse in the beginning as similar to the gentle breathing of someone who is asleep. The middle of the movement is much more intense and violent, and the end is as soft and calm as the beginning. The first chair violin and the first chair violoncello have brief solos in this movement.

Although material from the middle of the fourth movement, Balinese scherzo, is derived from a Balinese scale, the beginning is somewhat chromatic and the ending is essentially based on the E-major scale. This movement is distinctive in that the orchestra is asked to play pizzicato almost the entire time.

The fifth movement, Finale: allegro moderato, is the movement that is most reminiscent of the first movement. The ending combines material from the beginning of both the first and fifth movements.