Embrace of Peace

for Orchestra

David Leisner

Performing Ensemble: Orchestra
Duration: 14:00
Publisher: Merion Music, Inc.
Print Status: Rental

Quick Overview

Embrace of Peace

In 1988 I saw a new painting by George Tooker, one of my favorite contemporary artists, called Embrace of Peace. Besides knowing almost immediately that it would someday inspire a piece by me, I was struck by its positive, hopeful tone. The paintings for which Mr. Tooker is best known show people separated from each other in a state of paranoia, isolation and fear. This one, however, shows people coming together, as if the gates which have long imprisoned
them have just been opened. I sensed that this painting might be prophetic, and the image stayed with me long after seeing it. Sure enough, two years later the Berlin Wall came down, followed by the worldwide breakdown of Communism, and indeed, barriers were beginning to fall.

When The Fairfield Orchestra commissioned me for a work in 1991, George Tooker's painting beckoned, and the musical Embrace of Peace was completed that year. It is in one expansive movement, divided into three sections. The first, Toward, is about the moments when two people in the foreground of the painting approach each other with arms outstretched. In my imagination, it is in very slow motion and comes after a long, painful period of separation. The
violins begin with harmonics, very high, and the basses begin with a struggling, scraping sound, very low. Other instruments gradually join them at either end, and slowly the high pitches descend, the low pitches ascend, and the notes follow faster and faster until they finally meet in the middle on F, the tonal center of the piece.

The Embrace follows, slow and tentative, lyrical and sighing, with bursts of great passion. In the painting, the two figures in the center are embracing, while all around them is a sea of heads, also uniting, which suggested the final section, Festivities. A sprightly clarinet and bassoon duet begins a succession of duos and trios which are interwoven with joyful tutti passages. Note the unlikely combination of flute, viola and tuba in the trio. Just before the end, the celebration is interrupted by a solemn reminder of the slow-motion struggle that opened the piece and brought them to this moment. It is a reminder of the fragility and vulnerability of
their reconciliation. The festivities resume and conclude with a rousing optimism, though tempered by the caution of recent memory.

I am grateful to conductor Thomas Crawford and The Fairfield Orchestra for the original commission, to Theodore Furst for additional funding, to the Margaret Fairbank Jory Copying Assistance Program of the American Music Center (made possible though grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust, and the Pew Charitable Trusts) for partial funding of the copying of parts, and finally to George Tooker for the haunting
inspiration of his images.

-- David Leisner

Scores & Parts

Additional Information

Commission commissioned by The Fairfield (Ct.) Orchestrawith additional funding by Theodore Furst
Composition Date 1991
Orchestration 2(2 dbl. Picc.) 2 2 2 - 4 2 2 1; Perc. Str.
Premiere March 13th, 1993. The Fairfield Orchestra, conducted by Thomas Crawford; Norwalk Concert Hall, CT.


(i) Toward
(ii) Embrace
(iii) Festivities

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