Thank you for your interest in Symphony Number One!
Below is a special pre-release version of our debut album, recorded live in concert at the Baltimore War Memorial, May 8-9, 2015, and produced here in Baltimore in collaboration with Charles Street Sound. Press the play button next to each track to listen now, or click “Download” to save each track for listening on your computer or mobile device.
(To be presented in modified form in the album liner notes):
- Mozart: Soloists are Raul Cho, Flute, and Jordan Thomas, Harp.
- Fauré: Our concert debut took place days after the Baltimore riots of 2015. The dress rehearsal took place in the Baltimore War Memorial the very same day as the Maryland National Guard moved out after they were ordered to stand down by the Governor. While remaining politically neutral as regards the recent unrest, Faure Pavane was explicitly presented as a tribute to innocent lives lost. This performance was presented as an encore to the Mozart Harp and Flute Concerto. In the long tradition of adaptations of this work, it was presented in a special arrangement by Symphony Number One Music Director Jordan Randall Smith in which much of the pizzicato string parts are replaced or augmented by solo harp.
- Fromm: Mark Fromm was our first featured composer-in-residence. Symphony Number One is the name of our orchestra, a name signifying our mission to perform and promote substantial works by emerging composers. In this case, we borrow the double meaning of Symphony to signify that we are a "sounding together" - an orchestra - and that we are committed to performing substantial works (such as the genre, symphony) by emerging composers (such as who would be preparing to perhaps write their first symphony). That said, the exact genre and form of the work was left entirely to the composer. Fromm elected to write his literal first symphony, and thus we have Symphony No. 1 by Mark Fromm, premiered by the east coast's newest chamber orchestra, Symphony Number One.
- The bassoon soloist heard throughout the opening is Hanul Park. Mark Fromm is a bassoonist himself and elected to open the work with a virtuosic bassoon solo, making intentional reference to the opening bassoon solo in Stravinsky's Rite of Spring (the fact of the opening solo, not the musical content). Fromm also joined the orchestra to perform on the first half of the concert. He can be heard playing second bassoon alongside Ms. Park on the Faure Pavane.
- Mark Wrote the following about his work:
I had three goals in mind while writing Symphony No. 1. The first was to compose about thirty minutes of music as one, large, single-movement work, rather than the expected four- (or three- or five-) movement symphony. (For myself as a composer, I find the movements of multi-movement works to feel either like separate unrelated pieces, or the division between movements feels arbitrary, artificial, and unnecessary.) Secondly, most of my music is programmatic (it usually has a non-musical title, story, or something it is “about”); I wanted my first symphony to be absolute music, free of associations. Lastly, I wanted to showcase as many different instrumental colors as possible within the chamber symphony setting. The piece is scored for: flute (doubling alto flute), oboe, English horn, soprano saxophone, basset horn (or alto clarinet), bass clarinet, bassoon, two horns, harp, and a string section consisting of four first violins, three seconds, three violas, two celli, and one double bass. Each of the woodwinds plays extended solos, often juxtaposing the same pitch on different instruments (middle C sounds very different when played on oboe compared to English horn, for example). The climax of the piece features a completely divided string section with all thirteen players playing different lines.
In order to make sense of the enormous scale of writing a single-movement work of that duration, I employ a tactic used by Mahler in his fourth symphony: the piece opens with a memorable melody, then that melody disappears for most of the symphony, only to reappear in full force at the end. My Symphony No. 1 opens with an extended (ca. 3-minute) bassoon solo playing a high, introspective melodic line, which doesn’t reappear until twenty minutes later as a penetrating, soaring, forceful statement in the soprano saxophone. That melody then makes up the entirety of the last ten minutes of the piece.
After the initial contemplative bassoon solo, the music turns dark and sinister, then raucous and incisive, all serving as a foil to the calmer opening. Through all these twists and turns, the interval of a major seventh (a large, dissonant interval) unites all the various melodies and harmonies. After the sax solo recalls the opening tune, the full ensemble echoes it in soaring melodies and undulating harmonies, eventually giving way to the lone double bass playing it, slow and melancholy. The celli, violas, and violins gradually join the bass, all playing the same melody but starting on different pitches and at different times, resulting in an eight-part canon that continually ascends into the highest register. The darkness of the first two-thirds of the piece has turned into brilliance that carries it to the end.
- Also: Not included on the album, we also performed the first movement of Schubert's Symphony No. 5 and Webern's Symphony, Op. 11 at our debut. We have elected not to license the Webern for commercial release and space concerns led us not to include the Schubert. However, the final instrumentation of Mark Fromm's first symphony, indeed the orchestration that served as the basis for Fromm's work was informed by the combination of instruments in the other works alongside the Webern, a peculiar orchestra with pairs of clarinets and horns, solo harp, and strings without contrabass. This highlights one of the ways in which we collaborate with our composers to custom-tailor their works to our orchestra, down to the specific hall in which it will receive its premiere.
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