Stephen Hartke

SYMPHONY No. 4 (2009-2014) for Organ, Orchestra and Soprano Commissioned by Edward Halvajian (1935-2009) for the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Gustavo Dudamel, Music Director, and the Philharmonic Society of Orange Country Duration: 28 minutes Orchestra 4 Flutes (3rd and 4th double Piccolo), 4 Oboes (4th doubles English Horn), 4 B-flat Clarinets (3rd doubles E-flat Clarinet, 4th Doubles B-flat Bass Clarinet), 4 Bassoons (4th doubling Contrabassoon), 6 Horns, 4 Trumpets, 4 Trombones, Tuba, Timpani, 5 Percussionists (Crotales, Glockenspiel, Vibraphone, Xylophone, 2 Triangles, 8 Suspended Cymbals, Javanese Gong in A#3, Guiro, 5 Temple Blocks, 3 Wood Blocks, 4 Log Drums, 1 Timpano, Medium Bass Drum, Large Bass Drum), Piano, Harp, Organ, Soprano, Strings   I have wanted to compose a work for organ with orchestra since I first started to write music. Thanks to the kindness of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, I was able to sketch a good deal of the organ part at the console of the Disney Hall instrument exploring its wonderful array of unique timbres. In casting the piece as a symphony with organ, it was my aim to use it as an integral part of the orchestral fabric, a fifth choir contributing its special colors in the way that only it can. Played as a single continuous whole, the symphony is nonetheless in three large sections, the first of which begins with a roiling progression of dark chords that brings a musical world into being. There follows a series of themes, the first presented by the organ, the second by two oboes, and the third by the cellos, which will appear in various guises throughout the work. The middle section begins with a high, quiet chorale for the strings and then yields to a scherzo-like section beginning with the organ in its highest register. Gradually new ideas enter that eventually come to push aside the initial theme. What has begun with a certain degree of lightness and innocence, becomes more restive and even violent. A brief respite appears in a calm theme for the quartet of trumpets, but the growing upheaval reasserts itself and brings the section to a fortississimo conclusion. The final section is an aria for soprano, a setting of Federico García Lorca’s Sleepwalking Ballad in the beautiful English translation by the late Irish poet, Michael Hartnett. Lorca’s poetry is especially notable for its beguiling combination of vivid depiction and surreal imagery. This poem tells of desire, recklessness and loss. One commentator has interpreted it as a vision at the instant of death. I have placed it here as both a commentary on and conclusion to the drama set forth in the two previous sections. THE SLEEPWALKING BALLAD Federico Garcia Lorca, translated by Michael Hartnett Green, how I love you, green. Green wind, green branches. Ship up on the sea, horse in the mountain ranches. With shadows at her waist she dreams at her balcony window, Green flesh, green hair and eyes of cold silver. Green, how I love you, green. Huge stars of frost come out with the fish-shadow to open the dawn’s pass. The fig tree strokes the wind with its sandpaper talons, the thieving cat of a mountain bristles its sour aloes. But who will come? And from where? She lingers on the balcony, green flesh, green hair, dreaming of the bitter sea. ‘Friend, I want to swap my saddle for your mirror, my horse for your house, my knife for your bed-cover. Friend, I have come bleeding from the passes of Cabra.’ ‘If I could, young man, I would close the bargain. But I am no longer myself nor is my house my own.’ 'Friend, I wish to die decently at home with white linen bed-clothes. Do you not see this wound I have from breast to throat?’ On your white shirt you have three hundred dark roses. Your blood smells pungent as through your sash it oozes. But I am no longer myself nor is my house my own.’ ‘At least let me climb up to the high balcony alone, let me climb, let me up to the green balconies where the water sounds on the moon’s many balconies.’ And now the two friends climb up to the green stairs, leaving a trail of blood, leaving a trail of tears. Small lanterns of tin on the roofs quaked: A thousand drums of crystal wounded the daybreak. Green, how I love you, green. Green wind, green branches. The two friends climb and the strong wind launches a strange taste in the mouth, mint, gall and basil. ‘Friend, where is she? Tell me, Where is your bitter girl? How often she waited for you! How often she would wait on the green balcony, cool face, black hair.’ Over the face of the well the gypsy girl shivered, green flesh, green hair and eyes of cold silver. An icicle of the moon over the water held her: the night became as secret as a little square. Green, how I love you, green. Green wind, green branches, ship up on the sea, horse in the mountain ranches. (Text used by permission of the Estate of Michael Hartnett)
Symphony No. 4
Click above to listen to Podcast of Los Angeles Philharmonic premiere on American Public Media’s Pipe Dreams (starts at 22:37 into Podcast)
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