TEN Concert Overture for Orchestra (synthetic realization)
About This Composition
I composed TEN as an homage to the Savannah Philharmonic’s 10th season. This season celebrates the rebirth of the Philharmonic, 10 years ago, from the ashes of the Savannah Symphony, a truly amazing accomplishment. The remarkable achievement, both artistically and in terms of audience support, is due to the superb musicianship and dedicated artistic leadership of Peter Shannon, under whose baton the Philharmonic has grown to sold-out audiences. When Peter asked me last September to compose an overture to help celebrate the opening concert I was deeply honored and of course said, “Yes!” TEN is my 2nd commission from the Philharmonic and my 2nd collaboration with Peter. This is the reason the composition process has been even more special. And because of our kindred artistic sensibilities it has heightened our mutual desire for a musical statement that only a new work can make, to help usher in the Philharmonic’s 10th season.
In composing TEN I focused on 4 important elements: the very broad and expansive musical announcement of the opening that says, “Yes, the Savannah Philharmonic is here to stay!” making great music and thriving as its 10th season begins; the joyful and lilting musical statement of the 1st Theme; the deep, noble and slower paced musical gesture of the 2nd Theme. And, in between the 1st and 2nd Themes, the calm and reverent section played by the strings, which has its own subtext, “Chorale Of Thanks”.
There were numerous musical metaphors using the number 10 that I might have employed in my work but I settled on only two: the extensive use of 10/8 meters and the melodic use of the interval of a tenth.
The very first notes are a repeated and accented 10/8 bar heard in the percussion section played by a timbale. They build to the determined and Forte musical announcement by the French horns that says, “Yes, the Savannah Philharmonic is here to stay!” As the Introduction continues through the brass and percussion it climaxes on a G major chord in the strings, with the 1st and 2nd violins leaping to a very high interval of a tenth.
The 1st theme is a comfortable dance in 10/8 meter again, but whether it is played by the strings, woodwinds or brass each bar of the melody has one leap of the 10th interval. The “Chorale Of Thanks” following the 1st theme is a calm statement in the strings building in both tempo and volume to the 2nd theme. For the 2nd theme I chose the key of E flat major. This is one of the warmest and most embracing keys in music. I also chose for it to be played by a brass choir, broadly and boldly, to capture all of the depth and nobleness that they possess.
The final section of TEN starts as it began at the opening, except that the timbales are accompanied by the timpani and the French horns are doubled by the trombones and trumpets. This leads into the closing section, Maestoso, at a slower and stately tempo. And yes, it builds to a grand leap to a very high tenth in A major shared by the 1st and 2nd violins.
TEN also has another special meaning for me: its length. I’m a long-form guy, having written many works of 30-35 minutes duration and even a few upwards of 45 minutes. To compose a vibrant and moving work and say it all in only 10 minutes presented a unique challenge for me. I wrestled with that stricture for a few weeks at the beginning of the process but as the work “presented” itself to me I settled comfortably into its substance and architecture. I cannot wait to hear its birth under Peter’s wonderfully expressive baton.
Richard Sortomme August 2018