San Francisco Symphony Orchestra; Enrique Jordá, conductor
The title of Andrew Imbrie's Legend is without programmatic intent. The work’s principle idea is contained in a long melody for English horn, that begins after a short introduction. The same melody recurs twice near the end of the piece, scored for solo cello and later for the entire cello section. Although most of the melodic material is freely derived from this melody, there is a contrasting section (Allegro) and two harp cadenzas. The compositional materials of the piece determine its structural design. For example, the necessity for a formal balance between two levels is indicated in the contrast of interweaving motivic fragments and the sustained central melody. Also, the timbre of the harp solo directly affects the continually shifting tonal designs that precede and follow it.
In describing the middle section, the composer refers to “kaleidoscopic and evanescent colors,” “syncopations and notated accelerandi” and some “frequent changes of direction.” The high point of the entire work occurs in one of the few orchestral tutti, followed by a sudden pianissimo and the return of the original theme in Tempo Primo. The piece begins and ends quietly.
“O nuit! ô rafraîchissantes ténèbres! vous êtes pour moi le signal d’une fête intérieure . . .” (O night, O refreshing darkness! To me you are the signal for a festival of the spirit). These lines from Baudelaire’s Petits Poèmes en Prose ornament the title page of the score of Charles Cushing’s Cereus. The quote is not merely a casual affectation, but rather a carefully chosen motto that sums up the essence of this “Poem for Orchestra.”
Cereus, scored for full orchestra, is impressionistic in style. Cushing’s assurance stems from his belief that “Cereus is made with contrapuntal resources and with clean-cut, exigent rhythms of a sort that is utterly foreign to the technique of impressionist music.” His handling of the impressionistic idiom is both contemporary and original.
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