Sinfonietta (2018)

About

Sinfonietta, as the title implies, is a somewhat lighter take on the traditional symphonic forms typically found in a chamber symphony. Inspired specifically by Schoenberg’s Chamber Symphony, the piece uses the same instrumentation as well as its form of five distinct sections contained within one movement.

Sinfonietta opens with an ascending scale-like gesture that permeates the entire work. The first section explores the harmonies created by this ascending scale, either in quick fluttering solos, or spread out in long sustained chords, carefully colored with slow but constant shifts of dynamics and timbres.

Section two begins where the first one ends: with an agile clarinet gesture that becomes the basis of this section’s spinning motion and thick harmony.

I imagine section three as a kind of scherzo movement in a brusque and sarcastic mood. Bits from the first two sections are interwoven throughout, and melodic fragments are passed, often jarringly, throughout the ensemble. Underlying these fragments is a strong groove, contrasting with the more flowing and sustained material of the previous two sections.

Section four is loosely inspired by traditional “adagio” movements and is a short, pulsing harmonic progression that almost evaporates into a forlorn unison melody.

Section five is a bit of a “recapitulation,” briefly revisiting the scales and harmonies from the first section, but transposed as would be expected from a recap. The piece ends with a coda, a section that again basks in the rich sound and harmonies created by this imaginative, though unconventional, ensemble conceived by Schoenberg.

Instrumentation

Flute (dbl. Piccolo), Oboe, English Horn, Clarinet in E-flat, Clarinet in B-flat, Bass Clarinet, Bassoon, Contrabassoon, 2 Horns in F, 2 Violins, Viola, Cello, Contrabass

Duration

c. 13 minutes

Performances

May 19, 2018*
SOMArts, San Francisco, CA
Elevate Ensemble, conducted by Chad Goodman

*Indicates a world premiere