|III. Alla Marcia||03:03|
Passover Offering (1959), was born as a commission from the University of Michigan’s radio station (WUOM) as a part of a series devoted to holiday-related compositions. Many of the commissioned composers elected to address national or quasi-religious holidays. Wyner, however, selected Passover—not only for its spiritual and religious elements but also for its dramatic and symbolic story line. “In conceiving a composition with these [biblical] events in mind,” he commented, “I sought to evoke the drama and sentiment of some aspects of this legendary history.” He did not, however, intend the work to be either a programmatic piece or a literal narrative in music. Rather, he viewed it as representing impressions of elements within the events: “reflections and meditations on certain situations.” He devised the instrumentation—flute, clarinet, trombone, and cello—with a view toward modern counterparts of biblical instruments “as metaphors.” For example, to represent a shofar as a signaling instrument, he designated a trombone, “because it seemed to me the most primitive of the modern brass instruments in the sense that it is valveless.”
The work is divided into five movements, each with a programmatic subtitle: 1) Lento (Oppression, Enslavement); 2) Energico (Uprising, Plague, Exodus by Sea), in which the composer sought to depict a clash of battle that gives way to a “feeling of inundation, with the music suggesting a ‘watery’ evocation as the Egyptian army is deluged”; 3) Alla Marcia (A Desert March), in which Wyner wanted to suggest the presumed heat of the sand by “a rather quick-footed march—with distant signals in the middle of the piece”; 4) Grave (Despair, Hope), which he fashioned as a reflection of “a kind of lamentation and uncertainty—a kind of canzona”; and 5) Quieto (Silent Prayer, The Promised Land), which is reserved for flute and cello, playing harmonics in the composer’s perception of “a desert prayer.” The flute part was written to evoke and simulate biblical cantillation motifs. “That movement contains quite a lot of what we might call a ‘Jewish melos’—turns of phrases and melodic fragments that are identifiable as associated with eastern European Jewish traditions and origins.”
Notwithstanding those folkloric elements, Wyner sees the work in its entirety as “a mixture of a type of Stravinsky’s neoclassicism with the approach of Alban Berg.”
Performers: Richard Stoltzman, Clarinet; David Taylor, Bass Trombone; Ronald Thomas, Cello; Carol Wincenc, Flute
Publisher: American Composer's Alliance
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