Stephen Hartke

SHIP OF STATE (2017) Chamber Concerto for Piano and 20 Players Commissioned by Xak Bjerken,  the Oberlin Sinfonietta, The USC Thornton Edge ensemble, Ensemble X, the Riverside Symphony, June in Buffalo, and the Arizona State University Chamber Orchestra Duration: 17 minutes Instrumentation Flute, Oboe, Clarinet (doubling Bass Clarinet), Bassoon (doubling Contrabassoon), Horn, Trumpet, Trombone, Tuba, Percussion (Crotales, Xylophone, 4 Cowbells, 2 Bongos, 2 Congas, Bass Drum, Hi-Hat), Synthesizer (doubling Celesta), Piano solo, 3 Violins, 3 Violas, 3 Celli, Doublebass The metaphorical comparison of the perils and tribulations of government to that of a ship at sea in a storm may be as old and persistent as Western Civilization itself, from the 6th century BCE Greek poet, Alcaeus, to Sophocles, and later the Roman odist, Horace.  In Plato’s Republic, Socrates most notably invokes it in a parable on the dangers of mob rule.  In 1849, the American poet and ardent abolitionist, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote The Building of the Ship, a long poem on the shipwright’s craft that in its peroration christens the ship with the name “Union” and shifts into allegory.  The beginning of this section is well-known, frequently quoted, having famously shored up the resolve of such figures as Lincoln, Roosevelt, and Churchill: Sail on, O UNION, strong and great! Humanity with all its fears, With all its hopes of future years, Is hanging breathless on they fate! Interestingly, Longfellow’s original draft ended with fears of the ship being “wrecked upon some treacherous rock” or “rotting in some noisome dock,” but he thought better of it, changing the final lines to: Our hearts, our hopes, our prayers, our tears, Our faith triumphant o’er our fears, Are all with thee -- are all with thee! My one-movement chamber concerto for piano and twenty players, Ship of State, offers its own such sea voyage, each of its four main sections bearing a heading taken from Longfellow’s poem.  These are, with their tempo markings:   1. “Hanging breathless” (Foundering) 2. “In spite of false lights on the shore” (Edgy, potentially explosive) 3. “The anchors of thy hope” (Gently -- a rueful lullaby) 4. “What Workmen wrought” (Lively, resurgent)

Ship of State

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Recording: Oberlin Contemporary Music Ensemble Xak Bjerken, piano Tim Weiss, conductor Oberlin Music OC 21-03