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Sinfonia Solenne for Chamber String Orchestra

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krummholz:
Over the winter I revised the work for chamber strings that I shared here as "Fugal Variations"... I also retitled it, since it is neither a set of variations nor an actual fugue, though it contains fugal writing, three incomplete fugues actually. The main change I made was to interpolate some new material into the middle, "development" section for reasons of balance. For those who heard it on the Ning Composers Forum, there have been no major changes since then, just a few tweaks to vary the texture in a couple of places, and this rendering is more faithful to what I originally intended: mainly, the last fugue is taken at a very slightly slower pace (crotchet = 60 --> 58), which seems to give the music a little added expressive weight.

As the title implies, it's a solemn work (VERY solemn) and will probably only appeal to people who like that sort of thing. I tried to express both grief and healing in it, and overall I think it mostly expresses stoic perseverance (its subtitle is Like Light, Unbroken, a reference to a poem by Amanda Gorman). The idiom is traditional, retro even - it tries to be pure polyphonic music of the kind people wrote in the late Renaissance, and there are only a few fleeting hints of harmony that might shock Beethoven's audiences. At fully 25 minutes playing length, it might be a bit much to listen to in one sitting, so I've included a broken-into-sections version, as well as the full demo (for the intrepid).

Full demo:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1vUc_K38_TQixVy5ItDQVRwnYepTu3S-V/view?usp=sharing

In sections:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1q9YjUuPsN2JB6BVZdx1o0xrnwhNruO8t/view?usp=sharing

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1zJ3uNaZ6W_5MOck1KjJdgvuK4WJWeSGP/view?usp=sharing

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1w4zu3Nr9a91puf6A7D0Oj9zbO0F-rstw/view?usp=sharing

The score is attached.

relm1:
I enjoyed it!  :)  Nice and gloomy.  Was that the DSCH motif I heard at the start?  As for constructive feedback, by letter J, I felt the harmony could use a little more variety like borrowed chords or something from neighboring keys to keep it from getting predictable.  Sort of like, think of making a statement, you can repeat it, but the third time, it needs a variation.  Something unexpected otherwise the ear starts to tune out.  If you listen to something like Schoenberg's Verklarte Nacht, the music is incredibly inventive and every few seconds it's gone into a direction that is logical but unexpected.  That's a good model to emulate in places in your work.  I don't think you need much of that just enough to keep the listener on board because 25 minutes is a substantial duration.  Sure, you can repeat expositions and phrases to make something fit 25 minutes but a work that long needs 25 minutes of material if you know what I mean.  With Schoenberg, it is almost like he has an hours worth of material in a 25 minute piece.  If anything, he could have stretched that material out more because it is so adventurous structurally, melodically, and harmonically while still being tonal.  If Shostakovich is more your cup of tea, take a listen to his elegy from Lady MacBeth.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yd_-sjlhOm8

Do you find the chord change at 0:20 surprising?  Your ear is used to a tonality because of the pedal so you would expect a diatonic harmony.  That would fit perfectly.  However, we get a chromatic shift or borrowed chord from a foreign key that is quite unexpected.  This is spicier and makes the work more memorable because it is unexpected.  If all you did was shift harmonically out of key, that would be predictable, so then that becomes gimmicky and boring.  Ideally these elements are balanced and surprise and anticipation are working together to keep the listener engaged.  I'd also suggest you do this approach with other elements of music like rhythm - I notice even though the tempo is slow throughout, you don't go lower than quaver, right?  It would be very unexpected several minutes in if the melody persisted but the accompaniment becomes more animated with triplets or semi-quavers or something, especially if you dramatically expand the register range so something like a low G on violin up three octaves near the end, that would be very dramatic.  Of course that could make the work more of a Sinfonia Dramatica but dipping in from time to time to these techniques can still keep it solemn and hymnal but adds momentum and engagement. 

I really liked the ending of X, thought that was very beautiful.  Good luck and happy composing on future works!

krummholz:
Thanks for the feedback! Yes, at letter J, you put your finger on something that's been bothering me since last fall when the piece was still "Fugal Variations"... I also had the impression that starting in with the inverted subject (it's a modified inversion of the original fugue subject) at that point felt a little "old hat", since I'd just a couple minutes ago given it an extended fugal treatment where it was heard MANY times. I kept telling myself that it was a minor blemish because I quickly start combining it with the original subject and other motives, and press onward into a real development... but since it bothered you too, it probably is a true weakness in the piece. Of course I could have done something surprising and more modern harmonically with it, but one of the rules I set for myself was to stick with traditional functional tonality - the piece is intentionally "atavistic" and retro. Other than some fleeting bitonality from V to W, there is very little in it harmonically that could not have been written 200 years ago.

Yes, the original fugue subject begins with D-S-C-H, and those 4 notes are heard in various guises throughout the work, right up to the final cadence, often with the intervals modified considerably.

No note values shorter than quavers... YES. That was intentional, another of the rules I set for myself from the outset. Not only that, but never more than 4 voices at a time. It was originally to be a "Ricercar a 4" on D-S-C-H, though THAT idea got dropped as the piece started to take shape.

The wind-down starting at X is also one of my favorite spots... thanks for mentioning it.

relm1:
Congratulations, it seems you've achieved in your music much of what you strove to accomplish! 

k a rl h e nn i ng:

--- Quote from: krummholz on June 23, 2021, 06:14:30 PM ---Over the winter I revised the work for chamber strings that I shared here as "Fugal Variations"... I also retitled it, since it is neither a set of variations nor an actual fugue, though it contains fugal writing, three incomplete fugues actually. The main change I made was to interpolate some new material into the middle, "development" section for reasons of balance. For those who heard it on the Ning Composers Forum, there have been no major changes since then, just a few tweaks to vary the texture in a couple of places, and this rendering is more faithful to what I originally intended: mainly, the last fugue is taken at a very slightly slower pace (crotchet = 60 --> 58), which seems to give the music a little added expressive weight.

As the title implies, it's a solemn work (VERY solemn) and will probably only appeal to people who like that sort of thing. I tried to express both grief and healing in it, and overall I think it mostly expresses stoic perseverance (its subtitle is Like Light, Unbroken, a reference to a poem by Amanda Gorman). The idiom is traditional, retro even - it tries to be pure polyphonic music of the kind people wrote in the late Renaissance, and there are only a few fleeting hints of harmony that might shock Beethoven's audiences. At fully 25 minutes playing length, it might be a bit much to listen to in one sitting, so I've included a broken-into-sections version, as well as the full demo (for the intrepid).

Full demo:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1vUc_K38_TQixVy5ItDQVRwnYepTu3S-V/view?usp=sharing

In sections:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1q9YjUuPsN2JB6BVZdx1o0xrnwhNruO8t/view?usp=sharing

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1zJ3uNaZ6W_5MOck1KjJdgvuK4WJWeSGP/view?usp=sharing

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1w4zu3Nr9a91puf6A7D0Oj9zbO0F-rstw/view?usp=sharing

The score is attached.

--- End quote ---

Nice work! I want to listen again before commenting much, but right away I like your use of the DSCH motif as the subject, and you steer clear of any imitation of the Op. 110 quartet, which on its own is quite a considerable success. Will remark more soon.

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