FOUR SEASONS FOR ORCHESTRA (2016)
Instrumentation: 2 2 2 2, 4 3 3 1, timp+2, hp, pno/cel, str
October 25, 2017. First All-Russian Young Composers’ Contemporary Music Festival. Ufa Art College Concert Hall, Russia
National Symphony Orchestra of the Republic of Bashkortostan, Kamil Abdullin, cond.
Four Seasons for orchestra (2016) is a 7-minute musical representation of a time-lapse from spring to winter that is organized into four short, linked movements. My main objectives for this piece were to concisely bring out the representational colors and characteristics of the different seasons throughout the year and depict the seasonal changes by exploring and experimenting with a rich spectrum of orchestral sounds. The score consists of descriptive language that depicts the imageries of the natural seasons and the subjective emotional responses correspondent with those imageries - these needed incorporation of various instrumentation and compositional techniques:
‘Spring’: The clarinet, accompanied by ostinato of the cellos and being the main ‘character’, represents a happy awakening to the spring. The quiet bass drum roll and the muted tremolo harmonics in the high strings portray the still sleeping nature and create a misty and obscure atmosphere. The rhythmically cacophonic Col legno battuto by the cellos depicts the rain. The muted harmonic tremolos in the strings eventually fade away, depicting the clearing of the haze. Representing other living things waking up, the oboe, Cor Anglais and bassoons join clarinet(s) and create a bustle. The artificial and natural harmonics glissandos in the high strings add another tint of freshness to the scenery. More instruments - the timpani, gong, glockenspiel, harp and piano among them - join in to build the momentum towards the summer.
‘Summer’: The new season is reached with an explosive sounds of the brass instruments, gong, and the high strings. Much emphasis is put on the brass instruments to depict the brightness and warmth of the sun. The atmosphere becomes close to a cyclonic one - everything whirls round and round in a relentless manner. It finally reaches a static and, at the same time, dramatic climax on the expressive dark harmonies. The roaring bass drum and timpani rolls act as a thunder, whilst the strings, woodwinds and horns create an unsettling atmosphere of an apprehensive feeling of ending summer and entering autumn.
‘Autumn’: Lyrical oboe melody with it thick and melancholic timbre laments the passing of the summer. Sul pontice!o tremolos and trills in the strings produce a ghostly and chilling effect - days are getting shorter and colder. Muted horns and trumpets add to the withering atmosphere. Everything becomes quieter to signify the loss of energy. The harp shows its individual voice for the first time. Its warm and quiet timbre is like the autumn sun that gives out a little of warmth.
‘Winter’: This has the least movement of all. The static strings are like layers of snow that cover the things that use to be alive (grass, flowers). The three pizzicatos in the double-bass and harp signify the first drop of snow. Harp, the main instrument, together with the piano and glockenspiel recall the themes from the previous movements in a quiet and slow manner like reminiscing the past. The final few pizzicatos in the double-bass and the fingernail- marked notes in the harp are like the first drops of melted ice.
-- Meilina Tsui