Symphony No. 3, Op. 113

Lowell Liebermann

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Publisher: Theodore Presser Company
Print Status: Rental

Quick Overview

The greater part of the composition of the piece took place during the unfolding of two devastating and catastrophic events: the Nashville flooding and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The terrible effects of these two events and their continuing repercussions could not help but effect the emotional climate under which I was writing, and although the Symphony was not intended in any way to be programmatic of these events, I cannot help but feel that the music was colored by the conflicting emotions that each day?s news would bring. The resulting Symphony is dark and ironic, but not without its moments of humor and hope.

The Symphony is in one movement of about 21 minutes duration. In terms of its structural and thematic conciseness, the more enigmatic symphonies of Sibelius, particularly the 4th and 7th, were perhaps an influence. The work can be seen as dividing into three continuous sections which share material that is developed progressively and juxtaposed in a mosaic-like fashion over the course of the three sections. The symphony contains several elements of dance music: because of this I toyed at one point with calling the work a ?Dance Symphony,? but decided that this would have been a distortion of the work?s intent and, ultimately, a bewildering subtitle. The work?s thematic material is presented in various guises: as a slow and morbid waltz, an intentionally banal blues, a sardonic octatonic stride complete with walking bass, and in the final section, an elegiac sarabande. One of the most prominent thematic groups heard throughout the symphony takes the form of a three-part choral in various incarnations, which in part suggested the use of the three violin sections to match the six trios of woodwinds, trumpets and trombones. Harmonically, the symphony makes use of a wide range of materials, often simultaneously: tonal, atonal, bitonal, whole tone, modal, quartal and octatonic.

The opening of the work presents in succession the three motives which comprise most of the Symphony?s thematic material: a step-wise ascending motive in the English Horn and strings heard against a descending whole tone motive, followed by a wide-arching disjoint chromatic melody in the violins and flutes, and a modally tinged three-part choral which is first heard in clarinets and violins. The central section is a jazz-inflected allegro which aspires to a kind of superficial jollity but never loses its undercurrent of darkness and hysteria. The final section, marked Larghissimo, is the emotional core of the work. A reflection on the passage of time, it further develops the choral theme, ending with an intrusive and unresolved recollection of the allegro.

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Additional Information

Commission Commissioned through the Magnum Opus Project: Kathryn Gould founding patron and commissioner, and Meet The Composer, project manager.
Composition Date 2010
Duration 00:21:00
Orchestration 3(dbl. Picc.) 3(dbl.E.H.) 3(dbl.B.Cl.) 3(Cbsn.) – 4 3 3 1; Timp. 3Perc. Hp. Pno.(dbl.Cel.) Str.(Vln. divisi in 3pt.)
Premiere 5th, 6th, 7th November, 2010. Virginia Symphony, conducted by JoAnn Falletta; Newport News (Ferguson Center), VA (5th), Norfolk (Chrysler Hall), VA (6th), Virginia Beach (Sandler Center), VA (7th)