for Orchestra

Steven Stucky

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

Quick Overview

When the New York Philharmonic invited me to compose a short work for its European tour of August-September 2008, the invitation came with a suggestion from Music Director Lorin Maazel: would I consider writing “something rhapsodic”? I ran to the dictionary for help. The more I thought about those words rhapsody and rhapsodic — words I would never have chosen to describe my music — the more I realized that boundaries are meant to be pushed, and that an external, even foreign stimulus like “rhapsodic” could be just the ticket to push mine.

The resulting work is rhapsodic in two senses. It has a freely developing form, as if improvised, and it trades in ecstatic, fervent forms of expression. Although it is in one continuous movement, Rhapsodies is titled in the plural because it unrolls as a series of rhapsodic episodes, usually triggered by a single player whose ardent phrases gradually “infect” his neighbors until soon a whole section of the orchestra is sounding ecstatic. A solo flute (appassionato) draws other high woodwind voices in one by one, until they create a riotous mass of sound. A solo English horn (cantando, fervente) recruits clarinet, bass clarinet, bassoon, and more, until its whole neighborhood has broken into song, too. Solo horn and trumpet (nobile) launch still another outbreak, now among the brasses. Meanwhile, behind each of these episodes of rhapsodizing flows calmer, supporting music elsewhere in the orchestra, serving as a backdrop.

Unrelenting fervor can only be borne for so long. Eventually, the orchestra lapses, spent, into a quiet coda, where the intense experiences that have come before can be recollected in tranquility.
—Steven Stucky

Available on Rental

Scores & Parts

Rhapsodies - Full Score - Study
Rhapsodies - Full Score - Large

Additional Information

Commission Jointly commissioned by the New York Philharmonic and BBC Proms,with generous support from the Francis Goelet Fund.
Composition Date 2008
Duration 10:00
Orchestration 3(dbl. Picc.) 3(E.H.) 3(dbl.B.Cl.) 2 - 4 3 3(B.Tbn.) 1; 3 Perc. Hp. Str.
Premiere Premiere performances given by the New York Philharmonic, Lorin Maazel, Music Director:World premiere 28 August 2008 at the BBC Proms, Royal Albert Hall, London.United States premiere performances 18, 19, 20, and 23 September 2008,Avery Fisher Hall,

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