Japan Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra; Akeo Watanabe, conductor
Elias Tanenbaum's Variations for Orchestra, written during a MacDowell Colony Fellowship in 1958, is a set of six variations, each with a contrasting companion section. This work is organized on twelve-tone principles, with its row stated first vertically and then melodically, with slight permutations.
The first variation (Moderato) is characterized by an alternation of melodic fragments from voice to voice. Variation II, marked Andante, is relaxed and sustained, occasionally interrupted by instrumental brilliance. Considerable rhythmic drive propels the third variation, Allegro molto. As this section ends, the percussion, a dominant feature, drops out one by one, until a harp glissando (frequently used by Tanenbaum to herald moments of transitional significance) introduces Variation IV. This next variation (Andante con moto) opens with a flute solo. The prevailing mood is playful, a quality enhanced by the arrival of a saxophone in careful contrast to the solo flute. An imaginative use of metrical fluctuation and the notated accelerando — a favorite device of Tanenbaum’s — create in this movement a rich element of excitement.
The string quartet dominates the texture of Variation V (Poco più mosso). Variation VI (Allegro, Andante, Presto) is dynamic and forceful, ending with a straightforward statement of the row and a dazzling tutti.
Charles Wuorinen's Symphony No. 3 is divided into two movements, separated only by a short pause. Both movements begin similarly and the fundamental thematic and harmonic material is essentially the same, but the structure of each is different.
The composer describes Movement I as based on "a form of continuous variation principle." It is for the most part slow, and melodic fragmentation is its major characteristic. The second part is a "highly modified rondo," cast in a moderately fast ternary meter. Here rhythmic intensity is an outstanding quality.
In notes accompanying the first performance, the composer analyzed the germinal material as "a pitch sequence and a chord progression. The melodic and harmonic structure arises from these elements. Used first alternately, and later in combination, all aspects of the piece develop from this basic material."
The somber mood of the Symphony is summarized by a concluding slow section that contains a fragment of La Déploration de Johannes Ockeghem, by Josquin des Préz in memory of his teacher. The chorale treatment of this quotation adds to the Symphony’s dominant characteristics of strength and sonority.
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