Symphonia Sacra (2001)
Instrumentation: 4, 2 + eng. hn., 3 + bass cl., 2 + c. bsn. / 4 3 3 1 / timp., 4 perc. / harp, piano, cel / strings
I. Introduction: Musica Sacra – Musica Humana
II. Musica Sacra II
III. Musica Mundana – Musica Sacra II
Duration: 27 minutes
World Premiere: Commissioned and premiered by the California Symphony under the direction of Barry Jekowsky on April 29 and May 1, 2001.
The title Symphonia Sacra is the Latin for Sacred Symphony. I wrote this work while staying at the American Academy in Rome in 2000-2001. Though I had the idea for the piece before I left for Rome, the city inspired the idea all the more with all of its amazing churches, religious art and architecture. The sense of history was overwhelming as the studio I was given at the Academy was built on the grounds where Galileo had viewed the heavens through his telescope, and directly behind my studio stood the Aurelian Wall, built around the first century A.D. In this work, I attempt to present two types of music, one sacred and the other, secular or profane. I also give titles to each section. The work begins with Music Sacra (Sacred Music) followed immediately by Musica Humana (Human Music). The character of Musica Sacra is one of quiet introspection and features antiphonal Chimes tolling, while Musica Humana is more aggressive in character. The second movement is a development of the sacred music presented at the beginning of the first movement. Melodic fragments from Gregorian Chant are introduced by the solo horn near the opening and can be heard throughout the movement. The third movement, Music Mundana, is darker in character and features the lower instruments of the orchestra, such as the Bass Clarinet, Timpani, and Bass Drums. An ostinato rhythm in mixed meters (3/4 and 6/16) dominates the movement. This ostinato is also used in various sections where different members of the orchestra play at different tempi (for example, the percussion section plays the ostinato at quarter = 152 while the rest of the orchestra plays at quarter = 60). Ultimately, the sacred music returns and the antiphonal Chimes are heard tolling quietly in the background.
-- Pierre Jalbert