Meditations at Perigee

George Tsontakis

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Publisher: Merion Music, Inc.
Print Status: Rental

Quick Overview

Perigee is not a place on the map, but rather a term for the closest position that an orbiting planet or body has to the body it is circling. Its opposite state is called apogee. Related to my work, perigee might be considered to be a state of mind; a poetic moment which, through a kind of meditative practice, could be expanded through time. Having recently completed a large orchestral cycle entitled "Four Symphonic Quartets", a work spiritually akin to T.S. Eliot?s "Four Quartets", I might liken such a moment to what Eliot describes in his poem as ?the still point.? Thereby, a seemingly ?fleeting moment? might be expanded, poetically into a sustained dimension. Put simply, the perigee of this musical work implodes in a personal state of profound, abstract understanding, where (and when) things that are most important to me are closest to my spirit. Such an enlarging of a profound moment is no new ?technique? in a creative work ? composers, poets and artists have been, in their best works, prolonging high and lofty impulses for centuries. Only here, I imply, through my title, that the influence of such ebb and flow are more directly and consciously felt.

The work is cast in one continuous movement, but is made of two distinct sections, the latter being about half as long as the first. In a sense, the first part is, in essence, ?the piece,? the second part, a postlude to it. A short ?tema,? (theme) much like a short song, begins the work, and is referred to often in varied forms. This short theme, which hints at Schoenberg or Berg, serves as a kind of "Perigeeiac", if you will, mantra, and reminds the creator of the initial state of perigee. Lyrical piano meditations flow freely from it, as reflections on the theme. The entrance of the other instruments signal, perhaps, a crisis at the center of this perigee, and inevitable change. In the words of Yeats in his poem "The Second Coming", ?the center cannot hold, things fall apart.?

The jaunty but intensely directed Scherzo runs headlong, slaphappily and crazed, into the work?s apogee (my personal ?nickname? for this scherzo is "Dies Irae", the Requiem ?Day of Wrath?). From the intensity of the fallout and dissolution which follows, and exotic cloud is formed and from the cloud emerges music of the initial perigee and meditation, bringing closure to part one. The concluding part two, or postlude, alternates three lyrically airy designs, all drifting, freer, suspended in resolution. The first, a simple, sequential melody spun-out from the opening gesture of the perigee theme; the second, a streamlined texture of pulsating piano chords with accompanying floating lines and lastly, a distant chordal string texture, lilting in unison rhythm.

"Meditations at Perigee" was commissioned by a consortium led by Da Camera of Houston which includes the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts Terrace Concert Series, St. Luke?s Chamber Ensemble, Aspen Music Festival, Cabrillo Music Festival and Linton Music Series. Funding for this commission has been provided by a grant from Meet The Composer/Reader?s Digest Commissioning Program, in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Lila Wallace-Reader?s Digest Fund. Meditations at Perigee is dedicated to Sarah Rothenberg.

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Additional Information

Commission Commissioned by a consortium led by Da Camera of Houston which includes the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts Terrace Concert Series, St. Luke?s Chamber Ensemble, Aspen Music Festival, Cabrillo Music Festival and Linton Music Series.
Composition Date 1997
Duration 00:24:00
Orchestration Cl. Hn. Pno. Vln. Vla. Vcl. Cb.
Premiere May 2nd, 1997. Da Camera of Houston.