About this work:
The second of Two Pieces for large orchestra.
The origins of Capriccio & Notturno date from as early as 1955 with a version of Capriccio that was replaced in 1960 with yet another version. Intended as a companion to Capriccio, a first version of Notturno was written later the same year. In 1976 Notturno was so extensively revised as to result virtually in a new composition while the following year Capriccio was completely rewritten, retaining only two principal themes from the original. Audiences may be pleased to know that I have no
intentions of adding to this tortuous history: I am more or less satisfied with Capriccio & Notturno as it now stands!
It is an irresistible temptation in providing a few
guidelines for listening to Notturno to ascribe to each phrase the poetic affections which these phrases seem to evoke. Adjectives like dark, brooding, bleak, desolate, intense, but also intimate, warm, tender, come readily to mind. Whatever attributes a listener may prefer--and, since I myself am ambivalent about them, I shall suggest none in particular--it is clear that the piece is indeed "poetic," and I consider a "poetic" response appropriate.
The form of Notturno is one in which a long, sustained theme characterized by wide leaps is succeeded by a series of similarly shaped phrases, which gradually increase in intensity rather like
a spiral. The climax thus achieved is followed abruptly by conditions similar to those which prevailed at the beginning of the piece. These conditions prepare for a restatement of the opening theme, the listener's reaction to which will be affected more by the psychological effects of the musical events that preceded it than by the minor alterations which the theme itself has undergone. One might go so far as to say that the musical plan of Notturno relies for its rationale as much on dramatic principles as on musical. The relationship with poetry and drama might be understood more clearly if one were to imagine the piece as a poem or one-act play, the precise text of which is known
only to the composer.
Because of its optimistic outlook, bright colors, its spiky themes and often prickly harmonies, Capriccio stands in ironic contrast to Notturno, and listeners may choose any meaning they wish as to why I prefer to have the two pieces played in this particular order. Contributing to its character and
forthrightness of expression is the almost classical nature of its form, which owes much to the principles of sonata-allegro form with its duality of theme groups, working out of musical ideas, and eventual concise return. The spirit of Capriccio owes
something to both past and present: while Mozart might have approved of the clarity of the counterpoint, he probably would have frowned at the dash of harmonic chili pepper at the end.
Year composed: 1960
Ensemble type: Orchestra:Standard Orchestra
Instrumentation: 1 Piccolo, 2 Flute, 2 Oboe, 1 English Horn, 2 Clarinet, 1 Bass Clarinet, 2 Bassoon, 1 Contrabassoon, 4 Horn in F, 3 Trumpet, 2 Trombone, 1 Bass Trombone, 1 Tuba, 1 Timpani, 3 Percussion (General), 16 Violin, 6 Viola, 6 Cello, 5 Double bass, 1 Harp