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New Recording of Elliot Goldenthal’s “Symphony In G# Minor”—Piece Written for and Premiered by Pacific Symphony—Released Today by Zarathustra Music
Orange County, Calif. — May 12, 2015
Pacific Symphony has reunited with Academy Award-winning composer Elliot Goldenthal to release the world-premiere recording of his “Symphony in G# Minor” on the Zarathustra Music label Tuesday, May 12. Goldenthal wrote the 22-minute work for Pacific Symphony and Music Director Carl St.Clair as part of the orchestra’s 2014 American Composers Festival. This collaboration comes 20 years after the orchestra commissioned Goldenthal to write a piece for the 20th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War. Entitled “Fire Water Paper: A Vietnam Oratorio,” the hour-long work for orchestra and SATB chorus with soloists and a cello obbligato, was premiered in 1995, with the recording released in 1996 on Sony Classical Records, featuring renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma.
Goldenthal’s new symphony is written in the autobiographical key of G-sharp Minor and premiered shortly after his 60th birthday. It represents his first large-scale concert work since “Fire Water Paper.” The CD stands as Pacific Symphony’s sixth album in the course of the last three seasons under the Symphony’s American Recordings Project, which launched in 2012.
The CD is available to order on Amazon and for digital download on iTunes. In addition to the CD release, 300 limited-edition 180-gram numbered vinyl records will be available for purchase as early as June 2015 from Zarathustra Music.
In reaction to the symphony’s premiere, the Orange County Register’s Timothy Mangan wrote: “The work is harmonically centered on G-Sharp Minor but is freely dissonant, its Moderato con Moto has a Mahlerian quality, dark and brooding and serious, also trenchantly
orchestrated. It takes its time, is in no rush to show off, is even hesitant in its unwinding. The finale takes the lid off, is brash and jagged and motoric, near the end unleashing a battery of antiphonal percussionists, who slammed away here in the reverberation chambers around the hall, to thrilling stereophonic effect.”
Mangan, who also awarded it “Best New Symphony” in his “Reger Awards: The Year in Classical Music,” added, “This tightly knit score deserves wide play, and I hope St.Clair and the orchestra will bring it back, too.”
In his program notes, Goldenthal explains that using the unusual key of G-sharp Minor was personal and intentional. He had always felt a connection to the timbre in the note G-sharp, as well as an attraction to the key of A-flat. It is a unique choice, as there are few other pieces in history to be written in this key.
“On a theoretical note,” he wrote, “G-sharp Minor only represents the place where the symphony sits; it is not obliged to follow chromatic harmonic tradition. It also creates tension for the string ensemble, with no opened strings and it demands great concentration on intonation.”
The piece consists of two movements: Moderato con Moto and Rondo Agitato. The first movement encompasses a four-note motive spoken from the bassoon and a five-note phrase in the oboe section. These motives happen against a “rocking gentle percolation” on the harp and violas, and the four-note motive is stated boldly at the end of the first movement before being repeated in diminution form in the second movement.
“I needed to compose a first movement with the intent to ‘feel’ more expansive than its 13- or 14-minute duration,” describes Goldenthal. “I did this by opening up the vistas and featuring the sections of the orchestra rather than presenting the orchestra as a block—with its composites melding as one.”
In contrast to the rising expanse of the first, the second movement possesses a dense atmosphere that features the brass and percussion sections more heavily. Consequently, the principal motive is developed against an unsettling background of music until the momentum
picks up and resolves in a chaotic rush of sound from the entire orchestra, alluding to the original motive only quickly before the percussionists take over in a primal voice.
Goldenthal gives a little insight into the meaning of this as he expresses, “The percussionists have a ‘conversation’ that attempts to bridge the gap of human long-distance communication....the first ‘wireless’ conversation that existed millennia ago, with hands and drum, warnings, war songs and love songs across tree tops, mountains and time.”
As a highly successful composer of orchestra, film, opera, ballet and theater, Goldenthal is seen as one of the most highly acclaimed composers still writing today. He has received an Academy Award and a Golden Globe Award for his score in “Frida” and has received Oscar nominations for the film’s song “Burn It Blue,” as well as his music for “Interview with the Vampire” and “Michael Collins.” In addition, Goldenthal was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in music for his opera “Grendel” in 2007, and in 2013, the Joffrey Ballet produced his three-act ballet “Othello,” which is to be revived by the American Ballet Theater in May 2015 at its original place of debut, the Metropolitan Opera House. More recently, Goldenthal composed the music and soundscapes for the play “Grounded,” starring Anne Hathaway, which opened in April 2015 at the Public Theater. He was also the recipient of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) Founders Award in March 2015.
About Pacific Symphony
Pacific Symphony, led by Music Director Carl St.Clair, is the largest orchestra formed in the United States in the last 50 years, and is recognized as an outstanding ensemble making strides on both the national and international scene as well as in its own community of Southern California. The Symphony offers moving musical experiences with repertoire ranging from the great orchestral masterworks to music from today’s most prominent composers, highlighted by the annual American Composers Festival and a series of multimedia concerts called “Music Unwound.”
The Symphony is dedicated to developing and promoting today’s composers and expanding the orchestral repertoire—illustrated through its many commissions and recordings, in-depth explorations of American artists and themes at the American Composers Festival. The Symphony’s innovative approaches to new works received the ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming in 2005 and 2010. In 2010, the Symphony was named one of five orchestras profiled by the League of American Orchestras in a study on innovation. Since 2006, the Symphony has performed in the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, designed by Cesar Pelli with acoustics by Russell Johnson.
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