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Symphony IX (Barnes)

From Wind Repertory Project
James Barnes

James Barnes


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This work bears the designation Opus 160.


General Info

Year: 2018
Duration: c. 34:25
Difficulty: (see Ratings for explanation)
Publisher: Unknown
Cost: Score and Parts - Unknown


Movements

1. Elegy – 11:20
2. Scherzo 3:35
3. Night Music – 8:35
4. Finale – 9:05


Instrumentation

(Needed, please join the WRP if you can help.)


Errata

None discovered thus far.


Program Notes

James Barnes and his editor have written comments about this symphony and his eight earlier symphonies.

From the editor:

The first movement of Barnes’ Ninth Symphony, subtitled Elegy, is based around G minor. It is the longest movement of the symphony. Tragic and despondent in character, it is cast in sonata-allegro form. After a full tutti introduction, featuring many major ninths (as in…Ninth Symphony) and a moment of repose by solo horn (echoed by solo muted horn), the first theme is introduced by trumpets. It is simple, dramatic melody, based on open fifths, is reminiscent of many “marc-hlike” moments in the music of Mahler. Several settings of this dramatic theme, accompanied by a recurring sub-theme dirge in somber trombones and low woodwinds, eventually takes the listener to the second main theme, stated by three oboes in the sub-dominant (C minor). This rather sassy melody is repeated by muted brass before the first main theme is loudly proclaimed at the beginning of the development by trombones. Both of the main themes are then tossed about in various settings until the first theme, dramatically stated by low brass, takes the music to the recapitulation, introduced by solo horns (echoing the beginning of the movement), “distant” muted trumpets, and the recurring dirge by the trombones and low woodwinds. The second main theme is restated in tonic (G minor) by the saxophone choir. The movement ends with snippets of the dirge, a final horn echo, and the dirge rhythm played by solo timpani.

The second movement is entitled Scherzo. Barnes claims that “I have always wanted to write a waltz,” and that is how this movement is cast. Like many waltzes and scherzi, the movement is cast in a modified rondo form in D minor. In contrast to the sadness, drama and despair of the first movement, the scherzo is a delightful posy of expansive melody, splashy color, humor and rhythm. It serves as an effective antidote to the despondency and despair of the first movement. “But that is what scherzi are for,” writes Barnes. “They are like the lemon sherbert served between the main courses of a heavy four-course meal. They lighten one’s palate.”

The third movement, Night Music, is in a modified tertiary form. In contrast to the Scherzo, it begins with a mysterious incantation, first displayed by solo alto flute. The music becomes even darker and more mysterious with the entrance of arpeggiating clarinets playing pianissimo, accompanied by harp glissandi. The thick harmonies of this portion of the work effectively express an “otherworldly” mood. Snippets of the open fifth theme from the first movement eventually introduce a transition, first introduced by solo tenor saxophone, then answered by solo flugelhorn, as this portion moves toward the central idea of the movement, first boldly stated by low horns and euphoniums. This expressive theme is reset several times before the composer eventually takes the listener back to the first idea of the piece, this time played by English horn. As the music returns to its original mood, a solo off-stage soprano voice suddenly appears, eerily singing a modified version of the first idea. The movement ends as mysteriously as it began.

Cast in sonata-allegro form, the fourth movement is most definitely a rousing Finale. It begins with a brilliant fanfare, accompanied by scampering woodwinds, before the first theme appears in the trumpets and flugelhorns in the thirty-eighth measure. Based on the open fifth theme from the first movement, this lively, easily memorable theme based on G Major is bantered about by different sections until a progression of “dreamlike” chords, played in woodwinds and celesta (reminiscent of Barnes’ Second Symphony), introduce the second main idea: a rather hymn-like melody first introduced by double reeds. Even here, the first theme, played by solo brass, keeps interrupting this second theme. The second theme is played by the “saxhorn choir” (flugelhorns, euphoniums, and tubas) before statements of the opening theme, first played by trumpets, then trombones, take the listener to the beginning of the development section. Here, both main themes are tossed about, sometimes singly, sometimes in combination with each other, until the music quietens and eventually grinds to a halt. Playing a somber version of the second theme, a euphonium-tuba choir introduces a solitary oboe cadenza, followed by solo flute. Over a low, sustained chord, a solo bassoon provides transition to the return of the “dreamy” parallel chords, this time played only by celesta and vibraphone. Suddenly, the faster tempo of the work reappears in solo timpani before layer after layer of the first theme begins to reappear in contrapuntal fashion, more like the opening fanfares. This highly energetic, complex texture continues to intensify until a “clear statement” of the first theme by unison woodwinds introduces the recapitulation portion of the work. The second theme suddenly bursts out in the choir of brass, this time in the “home key” of G Major, while snippets of the second theme scamper about in counterpoint. Final fanfares in the brass section, each time answered by woodwinds, mallet instruments, and piano, provide the abbreviated coda for the work, and the symphony ends with an energetic splash of color.

From Barnes:

Symphonies are not just large, long pieces of music. The symphony is a form. Even today, certain aspects of the symphony follow the traditions of all the wonderful examples by Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Tchaikovsky, Brahms, Mahler, and into the twentieth century with Sibelius, Shostakovich, Stravinsky, Prokofiev, Copland, Persichetti, William Schuman, and yes, even John Corigliano. At least one movement of the work (usually the first, the last, or both) must be in some sort of sonata form (either sonata-allegro or sonata rondo). Large, multi-movement works without at least one movement in sonata-allegro form should be referred to as ‘symphonic suites,’ not symphonies. This is why Holst’s The Planets is called a suite. This is why Rimsky-Korsakov calls Scheherezade a ‘Symphonic Suite,’ since none of the four movements is cast in sonata-allegro form.

While most symphonies contain three or four movements, there is no rule about this. Mahler composed five movements in some of his symphonies, while Samuel Barber’s First Symphony is cast in one continuous movement. The attractiveness of symphonic form to composers comes from the fact that, even from its highly stylized beginnings in classical music, it has always been flexible, not rigid. The beauty of the symphonic form is its vast expanse. The symphony is to a composer as the novel is to a writer. In the case of the symphony, it affords the composer the time and space to express many different moods. It allows the creator the time to delve deeply into many shades of thought and the time and space to construct dramatic moments, tragic episodes, touching expression and yes, even a little humor – all within the confines of one marvelous form. This is my last symphony; nine is enough. In some ways, this work represents a compendium of all that I have learned during fifty years of composing and scoring for this wonderful new medium: the modern wind band.

Ninth Symphony, Opus 160 (2018) was composed between January and June of 2018 and was premiered on September 21, 2018, in Lawrence, Kansas, by The University of Kansas Wind Ensemble, Dr. Paul Popiel, conducting. This large work was commissioned by a consortium of twenty-one college bands, including the University of North Texas Symphonic Band, community bands, professional bands and individuals to help mark the seventieth birthday of the composer. It is an expansive forty-minute work in four movements.

- Program Note from University of North Texas Symphonic Band concert program, 21 March 2019


Commercial Discography

None discovered thus far.


State Ratings

None discovered thus far.


Performances

To submit a performance please join The Wind Repertory Project

  • University of South Alabama (Mobile) Wind Ensemble (William Petersen, conductor) – 16 April 2019
  • University of North Texas (Denton) Symphonic Band (Dennis Fisher, conductor; Kathryn Davidson, soprano) – 21 March 2019
  • University of Kansas (Lawrence) Wind Ensemble (Paul Popiel, conductor) – 20 September 2018 *Premiere Performance*


Works for Winds by this Composer


Resources

None discovered thus far.