Three Illusions for Orchestra

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Three Illusions for Orchestra is an orchestral triptych by the American composer Elliott Carter. The complete work was given its world premiere in Symphony Hall, Boston, on October 6, 2005 by the Boston Symphony Orchestra under the conductor James Levine. [1]

Orchestra large instrumental ensemble

An orchestra is a large instrumental ensemble typical of classical music, which mixes instruments from different families, including bowed string instruments such as violin, viola, cello, and double bass, as well as brass, woodwinds, and percussion instruments, each grouped in sections. Other instruments such as the piano and celesta may sometimes appear in a fifth keyboard section or may stand alone, as may the concert harp and, for performances of some modern compositions, electronic instruments.

Elliott Carter American composer

Elliott Cook Carter Jr. was an American composer. He studied with Nadia Boulanger in Paris in the 1930s, then returned to the United States. After an early neoclassical phase, he developed a personal harmonic and rhythmic language. His compositions are known and performed throughout the world, and include orchestral, chamber music, solo instrumental, and vocal works. Carter was twice awarded the Pulitzer Prize.

Symphony Hall, Boston American concert venue

Symphony Hall is a concert hall located at 301 Massachusetts Avenue in Boston, Massachusetts. Designed by McKim, Mead and White, it was built in 1900 for the Boston Symphony Orchestra, which continues to make the hall its home. The hall was designated a U.S. National Historic Landmark in 1999 and is a pending Boston Landmark. It was then noted that "Symphony Hall remains, acoustically, among the top three concert halls in the world ... and is considered the finest in the United States." Symphony Hall, located one block from Berklee College of Music to the north and one block from the New England Conservatory to the south, also serves as home to the Boston Pops Orchestra as well as the site of many concerts of the Handel and Haydn Society.

Contents

Structure

Three Illusions for Orchestra has a duration of roughly 9 minutes and is composed in three movements.

A movement is a self-contained part of a musical composition or musical form. While individual or selected movements from a composition are sometimes performed separately, a performance of the complete work requires all the movements to be performed in succession. A movement is a section, "a major structural unit perceived as the result of the coincidence of relatively large numbers of structural phenomena".

A unit of a larger work that may stand by itself as a complete composition. Such divisions are usually self-contained. Most often the sequence of movements is arranged fast-slow-fast or in some other order that provides contrast.

Micomicón

"Micomicón" was originally commissioned by the Boston Symphony Orchestra for the conductor James Levine and was composed in New York City in 2002. The title comes from the novel Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, about which Carter described in the program notes, "Micomicón, invented by Sancho Panza and his friends to cure Don Quixote's 'madness', is said to be a kingdom near Ethiopia stolen by a giant from its queen, Micomicona, who beseeches the adventurous Don Q. to put her back on the throne (in Cervantes' great novel, chapters 29-30, book 1)." [1]

<i>Don Quixote</i> 1605 novel by Miguel de Cervantes

The Ingenious Gentleman Sir Quixote of La Mancha, or just Don Quixote, is a Spanish novel by Miguel de Cervantes. Published in two parts, in 1605 and 1615, Don Quixote is the most influential work of literature from the Spanish Golden Age and the entire Spanish literary canon. As a founding work of modern Western literature, it regularly appears high on lists of the greatest works of fiction ever published, such as the Bokklubben World Library collection that cites Don Quixote as the authors' choice for the "best literary work ever written".

Sancho Panza character in Don Quixote

Sancho Panza is a fictional character in the novel Don Quixote written by Spanish author Don Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra in 1605. Sancho acts as squire to Don Quixote and provides comments throughout the novel, known as sanchismos, that are a combination of broad humour, ironic Spanish proverbs, and earthy wit. "Panza" in Spanish means "belly".

Ethiopia country in East Africa

Ethiopia, officially the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, is a country in the northeastern part of Africa, popularly known as the Horn of Africa. It shares borders with Eritrea to the north, Djibouti to the northeast, and Somalia to the east, Sudan and South Sudan to the west, and Kenya to the south. With over 102 million inhabitants, Ethiopia is the most populous landlocked country in the world and the second-most populous nation on the African continent that covers a total area of 1,100,000 square kilometres (420,000 sq mi). Its capital and largest city is Addis Ababa, which lies a few miles west of the East African Rift that splits the country into the Nubian Plate and the Somali Plate.

Fons Juventatis

"Fons Juventatis" refers to a Roman myth wherein Jupiter fell for the goddess Juventas and later turned her into a fountain, whose waters rejuvenate all who bathe in it. [1]

Roman mythology traditional stories pertaining to ancient Romes legendary origins and religious system

Roman mythology is the body of traditional stories pertaining to ancient Rome's legendary origins and religious system, as represented in the literature and visual arts of the Romans. "Roman mythology" may also refer to the modern study of these representations, and to the subject matter as represented in the literature and art of other cultures in any period.

Jupiter (mythology) king of the gods in ancient Roman religion and myth

Jupiter, also known as Jove, was the god of the sky and thunder and king of the gods in Ancient Roman religion and mythology. Jupiter was the chief deity of Roman state religion throughout the Republican and Imperial eras, until Christianity became the dominant religion of the Empire. In Roman mythology, he negotiates with Numa Pompilius, the second king of Rome, to establish principles of Roman religion such as offering, or sacrifice.

Juventas, also known as Iuventus or Juventus, was the ancient Roman goddess whose sphere of tutelage was youth and rejuvenation. She was especially the goddess of young men "new to wearing the toga" (dea novorum togatorum)—that is, those who had just come of age.

More's Utopia

"More's Utopia" refers to the 1516 book Utopia by Thomas More. Carter wrote in the score program notes, "Thomas More invented the word Utopia (Ou Topos – no place), the name for his imagined completely happy society with no central government, which followed draconian laws that governed almost all human activities." [1]

<i>Utopia</i> (book) book by Thomas More

Utopia is a work of fiction and socio-political satire by Thomas More (1478–1535) published in 1516 in Latin. The book is a frame narrative primarily depicting a fictional island society and its religious, social and political customs. Many aspects of More's description of Utopia are reminiscent of life in monasteries.

Thomas More 15th/16th-century English statesman

Sir Thomas More, venerated in the Catholic Church as Saint Thomas More, was an English lawyer, social philosopher, author, statesman, and noted Renaissance humanist. He was also a councillor to Henry VIII, and Lord High Chancellor of England from October 1529 to 16 May 1532. He wrote Utopia, published in 1516, about the political system of an imaginary, ideal island nation.

Draco (lawgiver) first legislator of Athens in Ancient Greece

Draco was the first recorded legislator of Athens in Ancient Greece. He replaced the prevailing system of oral law and blood feud by a written code to be enforced only by a court of law. Draco was the first democratic legislator, requested by the Athenian citizens to be a lawgiver for the city-state, but the citizens were fully unaware that Draco would establish laws characterized by their harshness. To this day, the adjective draconian refers to similarly unforgiving rules or laws, in English and other European languages.

Instrumentation

The work is scored for a large orchestra comprising three flutes (2nd and 3rd doubling piccolo), two oboes, cor anglais, two clarinets (2nd doubling bass clarinet), bass clarinet, contrabass clarinet, three bassoons (3rd doubling contrabassoon), four horns, three trumpets, three trombones, tuba, timpani, three percussionists, piano, harp, and strings. [1]

Western concert flute transverse woodwind instrument made of metal or wood

The Western concert flute is a transverse (side-blown) woodwind instrument made of metal or wood. It is the most common variant of the flute. A musician who plays the flute is called a flautist, flutist, flute player, or (rarely) fluter.

Piccolo small flute musical instrument

The piccolo is a half-size flute, and a member of the woodwind family of musical instruments. The modern piccolo has most of the same fingerings as its larger sibling, the standard transverse flute, but the sound it produces is an octave higher than written. This gave rise to the name ottavino, which the instrument is called in the scores of Italian composers. It is also called flauto piccolo or flautino.

Oboe musical instrument of the woodwind family

Oboes are a family of double reed woodwind instruments. The most common oboe plays in the treble or soprano range. Oboes are usually made of wood, but there are also oboes made of synthetic materials. A soprano oboe measures roughly 65 cm long, with metal keys, a conical bore and a flared bell. Sound is produced by blowing into the reed at a sufficient air pressure, causing it to vibrate with the air column. The distinctive tone is versatile and has been described as "bright". When oboe is used alone, it is generally taken to mean the treble instrument rather than other instruments of the family, such as the bass oboe, the cor anglais, or oboe d'amore

Reception

Three Illusions for Orchestra has been praised by music critics. George Grella of the New York Classical Review called it "a distillation of the brilliant, aphoristic style of Carter’s work from his ninth decade on." He added, "Carter scores for a large orchestra yet writes with such spare precision that it almost sounds like chamber music. The polyphony is particularly unadorned, and the subject matter, the dangers of utopian thinking, was important to the composer in his last years." [2] Anne Midgette of The New York Times similarly remarked:

Taken together the three pieces, based on literary works, make an appealing orchestral showpiece, with little of the thorniness that is supposed to be a hallmark of Mr. Carter's larger-scale music. "Micomicón" is tipped with shimmering cymbals; "Fons Juventatis" ("Fountain of Youth") offered bubbling winds and deep crosscurrents of low strings in a sunny mélange; and "Utopia," based on Thomas More's austere vision, is a dark place of ominous sounds both sharp and loud, ending with a lash of percussion. [3]

Andrew Clements of The Guardian called the three movements "glitteringly polished miniatures" and wrote:

Each of three pieces has a literary inspiration, and each is the evocation of an imaginary world. The first and most discursive, Micomicón, derives from an episode in Don Quixote; the second, Fons Juventutis, refers to the myth of the spring of eternal youth - a touching choice for a composer in his late 90s - and is a wispy scherzo utterly characteristic of late Carter; the final piece, More's Utopia, is a halting, rather menacing slow movement, quizzical rather than assured. [4]

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References

  1. 1 2 3 4 5 Carter, Elliott (2004). "Three Illusions for Orchestra". Boosey & Hawkes . Retrieved February 20, 2016.
  2. Grella, George (February 9, 2015). "Levine, MET Orchestra bring weight and precision to Carter and Beethoven". New York Classical Review. Retrieved February 20, 2016.
  3. Midgette, Anne (May 15, 2007). "The Familiar and the New, With Gusto". The New York Times . Retrieved February 20, 2016.
  4. Clements, Andrew (10 September 2007). "Prom 71". The Guardian . Retrieved February 20, 2016.