Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra: making great music personal

in the minds of the musicians

"rhapsody and scherzo" premiere this weekend

January 24, 2009

I’m so excited about the upcoming premiere of my Rhapsody and Scherzo with LACO this weekend. Not only is it an honor to be in my 4th season with LACO, but a privilege to write for such an amazing group of musicians. I love having a dual career as composer and performer, and this commission from LACO presented me with a unique opportunity to play in my own work. Normally in my composer role, I’m out in the hall listening, hearing the ensemble as a whole, following along with the full score. For this piece, I thought I’d write myself a contra part, sit in the orchestra, and see it come together from that perspective. It was very different, seeing the inner-workings that you wouldn’t see or hear sitting from a distance in the hall. For the very first run-through on Monday, I had my usual first-time jitters. It was awesome hearing it come together, but I found myself torn between focusing on the composer side of things (listening, answering questions with parts, offering performance suggestions), and the performer side of things (playing, counting measures, reeds..). Tuesday I was more relaxed and doing better with my multi-tasking. I also had a chance to hear the run-through in the hall (minus the contra part!), and it was really nice to be able to hear from the audience.

It’s rare that I know more than a handful of musicians when orchestras perform my music. But in this situation, I know all the musicians. I really hope that all my colleagues are enjoying the music and having fun playing it! Everyone has been really supportive, I’m very grateful for that.

A few words about the work- it was initially called Introduction and Scherzo, but as the piece progressed and evolved, the first half had exceeded “introduction” proportion, so I replaced “Introduction” with “Rhapsody.” Preliminary ideas included an opening in the French overture style, or use of signal chords (what you would hear calling you into the theater at the beginning of an opera overture). Those ended up being more of a source of inspiration than a literal application. I tend to favor the winds in my writing, so they are not only prominently featured in a chorale following the stately introduction, but throughout the piece.

Almost every work I’ve written includes a Scherzo movement; I’ve been captivated by that style ever since I discovered Mendelssohn’s “Scherzo from a Midsummer Night’s Dream” when watching the film version in English class. After hearing it, I went to the library and checked out every Scherzo of his that I could find, ranging from his chamber to orchestral music. In my opinion, Mendelssohn is the master of that scherzando style, brilliantly executing that fleeting, leggiero, capriccioso quality. The second movement of his Italian Symphony (also programmed on the concert this weekend) is a Scherzo. Also, in high school I had discovered Chopin’s Scherzi for piano, I learned the b minor, and I really liked how he took a term that means “musical joke” and applied it in a more dark, serious context. Another big influence throughout the piece is Tchaikovsky, including his symphonies nos. 3 and 4, and Francesca di Rimini.
I hope you enjoy the concert this weekend!

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