Commissioned by the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra
I. Andante con moto
II. Scherzo: molto vivace
III. Adagio cantabile
2 Flutes, 2 Oboes (2nd doubles English Horn), 2 B-flat Clarinet (1st doubles E-flat Clarinet, 2nd doubles Bass Clarinet), 2 Bassoons (2nd doubles Contrabassoon), 2 Horns, 2 Piccolo Trumpets, 1 Percussionist (4 Suspended Handbells, Handbell, 6 Wooden Slit Drums, Steel Drum), Harpsichord (doubles Piano), Harp, and Strings
My Symphony No. 2 is dedicated to my memory of my father, who died in January 1990. While cast in three distinct movements, dramatically the work is intended to be all of a piece. An important structural model for me was the Greek tragedy. The very opening is much in the manner of a Greek chorus: the forces that will vie together in the course of the symphony are set forth in a multi-layered texture dominated by the narrative voice of a violin and cello duo. The drama proper begins with a set piece in a slower, pavane-like tempo. The episodes that follow take up issues presented in the opening 'narrative' and pass through considerable tumult to a quiet, if unsettled, ending.
The second movement begins with a short fanfare-like flourish. At first this scherzo seems to be concerned with the quasi-fugal unfolding of a theme heard at the outset in the bassoons. But as the music continues, elements from the first movement infiltrate the texture, reasserting their dramatic conflicts. The opening flourish interrupts from time to time, as if to return the music to the subject of the bassoons' initial theme, but in the last measures this insistence yields to silence.
These two opening movements complete the main dramatic action; thus the third movement offers both final commentary and resolution to the conflicts presented. It is largely elegiac in tone. The principal musical material is a chorale, heard four times in all, though each time with a different melody above. Interspersed is a second chorale, played first by a string trio and later by the harp. A quite brief scherzo-like episode ushers in the concluding section, the centerpiece of which is a duo for horn and piano. And finally, at the close, one member of the first movement's narrative duo -- the cello -- sings the peroration to the entire symphony.