Loss of Breath, Op. 58

for Orchestra

Lowell Liebermann

Publisher: Theodore Presser Company
Print Status: Rental

Quick Overview

"Loss of Breath," Op. 58, is the first of a projected trilogy of symphonic works based on short stories by Edgar Allan Poe. Poe?s story (which bears the same title) is one of his weirder creations. It was meant as a parody of the kind of story found in Blackwood?s Magazine, the 19th-century?s equivalent of the World Weekly News or National Enquirer. The story is marked by an extremely black and violent humor which at times seems to border on Dadaism. It concerns a certain Mr. Lackobreath who, on the day after his wedding, quite literally loses his breath during an argument with his new wife. A search of the premises reveals several assorted body parts, but not the missing breath. Various calamities then befall the protagonist due to his lack of breath and resultant inability to speak. He is mistaken for a criminal, hung, operated upon, and generally maimed in various ways before ending up in a public burial vault where, by happy circumstance, he discovers the unsuspecting recipient of his breath. A diabolical pact is made in order to restore the breath to its rightful owner, and the story ends with some rather opaque moralizing.

Under the surface of the musical work is a complex and tightly constructed form whose materials are organically conceived and related. This form was abstractly derived from the dramatic structure of the story. Although the music takes its inspiration from the story?s atmosphere and moods, it is not meant to slavishly mimic the action of the story step by step. The score bears the following headings which might serve as a listening guide: Argument and Loss of Breath; Search for Missing Breath; Despair at Loss of Said Breath; Calamities Endured as a Consequence of Loss of Breath; Internment in Public Vault; Discovery of Usurper of Breath; Diabolical Pact; and Restoration of Breath to Its Rightful Owner.

"Loss of Breath" is scored for a large orchestra consisting of piccolo, 2 flutes, 2 oboes, English horn, 2 clarinets, bass clarinet, 2 bassoons, contrabassoon, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, harp, piano, celesta, timpani, strings and 4 percussionists playing a wide variety of instruments including, understandably, a wind machine.

Available on Rental

Additional Information

Commission Commissioned by the Long Beach Symphony in a consortium with the Wichita Symphony (Kansas) and the Akron Symphony (Ohio), with generous funding from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Geraldine C. and Emory M. Ford Foundation, and the Nationa
Composition Date 1997
Duration 00:15:00
Orchestration 3(Picc.) 3(E.H.) 3(B.Cl.) 3(Cbsn.) - 4 3 3 1; Timp. 4Perc. Hp. Pno. Cel. Str.
Premiere January 17th, 1998. Long Beach Symphony, conducted by JoAnn Falletta.