Symphony 4 is unique among my symphonic output in that it is the first multi-movement symphony that I have completed. Symphonies 1, 2, and 3 have all been long, single-movement works that bridge the definition between a tone poem and a symphony. However, with Symphony 4 I wanted to approach a more standard form.
Initially, the work began with the composition of Movement 4, which was then entitled the “Zephyrus Overture” This was both an homage to the Zephyrus Wind Ensemble I founded, wind instruments themselves (Zephyrus being the Greek god of the west wind), and the windy, blustery nature of the piece. I set out to make this work as accessible to wind bands as I could possibly make it. This is in deference to Symphonies 2 and 3 which are two of the largest works ever written for the wind ensemble and both highly intimidating works. The initial composition of Movement 4 took about 72 hours to complete from start to finish in May 2019, and, to my surprise, it achieved its goal of being accessible and within several days of its completion I had a firm offer to premiere the piece. However, I couldn’t let the work sit alone. And over the next two months, I pondered the possibility of turning the “Zephyrus Overture” into the final movement of a symphony. Ultimately, the work became a five-movement piece with an Epilogue that follows what I originally envisioned as the finale. By mid-November of 2019, the piece was complete.
The following descriptions of the movements are some of my own personal thoughts, but these are open to interpretation.
- Movement 1 opens with the call of nature. The movement is both heroic and plaintive with quick juxtapositions of moods. Beginning and ending in B-flat major, there is a brief moment before the final climax where E major shines through telling us that band music may begin with B-flat, but it doesn’t have to end there.
- The brief moment of E major from the first movement is not shifted to the related key of C-sharp minor in Movement 2. Here, I envision the trees of the forest themselves in a grand chorus. Birds flutter and sing among the woods. Ultimately, the gloom of minor breaks way to a majestic hymn in D-flat major before ultimately dying out with the sighs of the forest.
- I cannot write about nature and the natural world without also commenting on the destruction we’ve done to it. Movement 3 is a sort of elegy. There’s a feeling of pain and loss in this movement.
- Movement 4 was the first part of the piece written and most of the ideas and structural elements are derived from this movement. We are back home now in B-flat major, but it is now mocking and sarcastic instead of triumphant.
- We finally break free from B-flat in the Epilogue. Here, we enter a mist-filled world full of unknowns. It is both haunting and beautiful.
I honestly cannot say what the symphony is “about.” I’m sure it is about something, but I think that something will be different for each listener. My something won’t be your something. It could simply be an exploration of colors. It could be a more emotional connection. It could be a philosophical meaning. It could simply be nothing.
Piccolo (= Flute 3)
Flutes 1 & 2
Oboes 1 & 2 (Oboe 2 = Alto Oboe in mvts. 2 & 5)
E♭ Clarinet (= B♭ Clarinet 4 in mvts. 2 & 5)
B♭ Clarinets 1, 2, & 3
E♭ Tenor Clarinet
B♭ Bass Clarinet
B♭ Contrabass Clarinet
Alto Saxophones 1 & 2
Bassoons 1 & 2
F Horns 1, 2, 3, & 4
B♭ Trumpets 1, 2, & 3 (= B♭ Flügelhorns 1, 2, & 3 in mvt. 2)
Tenor Trombones 1 & 2
Tenor Tuba (Euphonium)
Percussion (4 players)
- Glockenspiel, Xylophone, Marimba, Vibraphone, Chimes (optional Song Bells or similar instrument)
- Bass Drum, Tam-Tam, Cymbals, Triangle, Tambourine, Snare Drum
Organ Pedal (optional, movement 5 only)