Work: Elegy, "In Memory of Serge Koussevitsky"
About This Work
Serge Koussevitzky, the great conductor, composer and champion of new music was a friend of Howard Hanson, and the combined influences of these two musicians was instrumental in bringing about the first important creative period in the music of the
United States in the early 1920's. Koussevitzky died in 1951, after a quarter of a century conducting the Boston Symphony Orchestra. For its 75th anniversary, the orchestra and the Koussevitzky foundation commissioned a work from Hanson, who had also a long association with it - Hanson's symphonies 2, 3 and 4 and his piano concerto had received their first concert performances in Boston -. In this occasion Hanson wrote his Elegy Op.44, which was first performed in January 1956, conducted by Charles Munch. This moving work opens with an atmospheric and melancholic theme on the strings that slowly builds up intensity. A harp arpeggio precedes a four-note theme in major mode, twice repeated by flutes and clarinet. The whole orchestra joins in to bring about the first climax. After it subsides, the strings develop the four-note theme. The oboe changes the mode to minor. A brief orchestral outburst precedes the first appearance of the main theme, which is soon combined with the opening theme before the orchestra builds up to a powerful climax based on the main theme. The repetition of the oboe intervention leads to a new climax, this time based on the developed four-note theme. The various themes are combined and growing to the most extended climax of the work. The final section recapitulates the themes in reverse order. A distant muted trumpet note is last heard before the final serene chord of the strings.
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