Jay Schwartz: Music for Orchestra

Jay Schwartz Music for Orchestra
Music for Orchestra

Jay Schwartz: Music for Orchestra

Year of composition:
Scored for:
for string orchestra
Jay Schwartz
str(16 14 12 10 8 or 14 12 10 10 8 or 12 10 8 8 6)
Instrumentation details:
group 1: violin I (6/5/4)
violin II (5/4/4))
viola (4/3/3)
violoncello (4/4/3)
contrabass (3/3/2)
group 2: violin I (5/4/4)
violin II (4/4/3)
viola (4/3/2)
violoncello (3/3/2)
contrabass (2/2/2)
group 3: violin I (5/5/4)
violin II (5/4/3)
viola (4/4/3)
violoncello (3/3/3)
contrabass (3/3/2)
More Less


Music for Orchestra

The complete perusal score (PDF-preview)

Work introduction

I have always been strongly attracted to homogenous instrumentations. Perhaps this has to do with a partiality to an almost exaggerated simplicity. Certainly the organic aspects of a homogenous instrumentation are qualities which interest me artistically and musically the most. My approach to understanding and conceiving a musical line, a progression, or a development of musical material originates as a metamorphosis, events always evolving in a 'natural' order, which usually means quite slowly. Out of this idea of metamorphosis in the context of a homogenous instrumental group arises my method of composition, which is similar to the craft of a sculptor. At the onset the form of the piece is clear in my mind. (Since my ideas about form in music are mostly straightforward, this stage is in itself actually not such a feat. Quite the contrary: I try to keep my first ideas of the piece and the form very simple.) In the course of working out the details, characteristics of an image become increasingly concrete and change with the discoveries made in the inner content of the mass of material - of the stone, as it were, becoming a sculpture.  In this sense, the metamorphosis achieved in the end for the form of the composition is in itself parallel to the actual creative process in forming the composition. The evolution during weeks or months of work on the composition is closely related to the actual sounding course of events of the finished composition itself, as if the composition itself tells the story of its own evolution. I envision a form that the listener can follow in one single arc of thought, like the metamorphosis of a single stone to a single shape, a form whose pull the listener cannot escape. 

The symphonies of Jean Sibelius have had a strong influence on me in this direction, even if perhaps at first only on a sub-conscious level. Although he chose a conservative language for his music, he abandoned the classical construction of motives and themes and allowed his subject material to evolve in the course of the composition, where, from the start, only a seed of a motive appears, becoming a theme not until the end of a movement. As a child I was very taken with his symphonies, which fascinated me surely in a rather naive way. (For which I am actually thankful today.)

The other very shaping force on my musical thought early on was the chamber music of Schubert, the string quartets and quintets. In the recordings, which I repeatedly listened to, almost to the point of satiety, I was fascinated most by the places between themes, the prolonged cadences and transitions in which one could hear the hair of the bow and the breathing of the musicians. These spots in the music have most certainly had the strongest influence on my musical ideas, especially concerning music for strings. The occurrence of the beginning of a sound, the first barely audible noises from the bow, the evolution of the sound as the speed and pressure of the bow increase: these are the components of my compositional ideas of form. It is as if I am putting these incidents under a microscope and enlarging them by a thousand fold. Or better: it was my wish to crawl into these spots and to linger there in the space between silence and sound. 

In Music for Orchestra the string orchestra is divided into three groups, corresponding to the positions 'left', 'middle', and 'right', so that in each group a smaller string orchestra with the complete quintet instrumentation is present. This spacial formation solidifies, even visually, the point of departure of the composition: a unison as a middle point spreading into the surrounding intervals to its 'left' and 'right', forming a cluster and then 'coagulating' into a concrete form. 

But, for me, the sound refuses to be classified. It is archaic and at the same time avant-garde, appealing to my most primitive self. The archaic, the primitive, the wailing, the unbridled, and the sublime in sound surround me and possess me. 

Jay Schwartz

Special prints

Music for Orchestra

Jay Schwartz: Music for Orchestra

full score
for string orchestra , 18’
Instr.: str(16 14 12 10 8 or 14 12 10 10 8 or 12 10 8 8 6)

Music for Orchestra

Jay Schwartz: Music for Orchestra

study score
for string orchestra , 18’
Instr.: str(16 14 12 10 8 or 14 12 10 10 8 or 12 10 8 8 6)

World première

Frankfurt am Main
RSO Frankfurt
Diego Masson

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