Barcarolles for a Sinking City, Op. 124

Lowell Liebermann

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Publisher: Theodore Presser Company
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Quick Overview

Barcarolles for a Sinking City was inspired by the city of Venice, a place that has long held the fascination of artists, writers and composers, and which I have been lucky enough to visit on several occasions. Sadly it seems that future generations may not be so lucky: in addition to the city?s slow sinking and recently discovered tilting, studies predict that if global warming and the resultant rise of ocean levels is unabated, the entire city (as well as many other coastal cities around the globe) will be under water by 2100.

I. Funeral Gondola
The late, cryptic piano works of Franz Liszt made a profound impression on me as a young composer, among them two works he entitled ?La Lugubre Gondola? (usually translated as ?The Funeral Gondola? ) which were said to be a premonition of Wagner?s death in Venice, his coffin transported through the canals in a black gondola. These late pieces of Liszt acquired even greater significance to me after I spent two summers in Bayreuth under the patronage of Friedelind Wagner, the granddaughter of Wagner and great-granddaughter of Liszt. This movement is a meditation on Wagner, Liszt, Venice and its own evanescence.

II. Barcarolle/Quodlibet
The Quodlibet (Latin for ?what pleases?) is a musical form dating back to the 15th century where many disparate melodies are juxtaposed. Popular in the Renaissance, sacred and secular melodies were combined, often to comical effect due to the resultant incongruity of the words. The form was considered the ultimate test of a composer?s mastery of counterpoint. The most famous Quodlibet is without doubt the final Variation of Bach?s Goldberg Variations. As a form the Quodlibet is less common in more recent music, although examples can be found in the works of Kurt Weill and David Del Tredici.

My own Barcarolle/Quodlibet was inspired by the (perhaps apocryphal) story of the funeral where musicians were asked to play a Bach Choral, but due to miscommunication played instead the Bacarolle from The Tales of Hoffmann. Here, the Bach Choral ?Allen Menschen mussen sterben? (?All Men Must Die?) is heard in the strings pizzicato, with a tempo indication ?In slow motion.? The alto line of the Bach suggests a phrase from Beethoven?s Ninth Symphony (?Alle Menchen werden Br

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Additional Information

Composition Date 2013
Duration 00:15:00
Orchestration 3(Picc.) 3(E.H.) 3(B.Cl.) 3(Cbsn.) – 4 3 3 1; 4Perc. Hp. Str.
Premiere November 29, 20, December 1, 2013 New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Jacques Lacombe Richardson Auditorium, Princeton (29th); NJPAC, Newark (30th); State Theatre, New Brunswick (1st)