Litany of Tides: Spatial Antiphonies

Henry Brant

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Publisher: Carl Fischer Music
Print Status: Rental

Quick Overview

Litany of Tides, completed in July 1983, was commissioned by the San Jose Symphony, written for violinist Daniel Kobialka (with whom I have collaborated on joint projects since 1958, and dedicated to the memory of my father, the violinist Saul Brant (1882-1934). The first performances were in San Jose, September 24 and 25, 1983. Daniel Kobialka was the soloist; George Cleve conducted the "stage orchestra", comprising the entire string section, the horns and tubas, the double-reed instruments, and 2 pianos. In the balcony, I conducted 6 widely separated groups: 3 flutes, 3 clarinets, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, 3 bell-percussionists, and a duo of harp and mandolin. Under the balcony, behind the audience on one side, was the timpanist; on the other side was the bass-drum and gongs. Forward of the stage, behind grilled openings in the walls 30 feet up from the floor, were situated 4 soprano singers, 2 on each side of the audience. Each sang a different set of melodies, on texts describing tidal currents, wave formations, lunar attraction, tides in the atmosphere and within the earth, and flood tides. Daniel Kobialka played from a corner of the balcony throughout most of the work, and from the stage during his final 3 episodes. Musical materials assigned to the violin, to each orchestra, and to the singers have no relation to each other; the effect in the hall is that of 4 different compositions played at once; the listeners themselves being the connecting factors.

Before I began to write Litany of Tides, I inquired about the other works to be programmed on the same concert. When I learned that Bach's Suite No. 3 was to precede me, and Beethoven's 5th Symphony to follow, I decided that this unique opportunity to form part of such a triptych should somehow be incorporated in my new piece. Accordingly, the opening phrases of the Beethoven symphony are superimposed over several of my passages towards the end. In thinking further about Bach's trumpets and violins, it occurred to me that this mixture has an exact modern counterpart in the Mexican mariachi band, where a few violins, sometimes only one, have to contend in unison with a loud trumpet. And so Litany of Tides begins with the Gavotte from Bach's Suite No. 3, played by the trumpets in the balcony, somewhat in the manner of a Mexican march.

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Additional Information

Commission Commissioned by the San Jose Symphony
Composition Date 1983
Duration 00:25:00
Orchestration Solo Vln.; Solo Soprano (4 voices); 3 3 3 3 - 5 3 3 2; Timp. Perc. 2Pno. Mand. Hp. Str.(6 groups plus stage) (2 conductors)
Premiere 23th September, 1983. Daniel Kobialka, violin; Kay DeVries, Diane Gilfether, Francine Lancaster, Barbara Swartz, sopranos; San Jose Symphony Orchestra, George Cleve, conductor, Henry Brant, assisting conductor; San Jose Center for the Performing Arts, CA