Listen: I. Elegance

Performed By: the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Joel Revzen, conductor

I. Elegance II. Beauty Alone III. Ferocious Rhythm

String orchestra: 2 violins, viola, cello, double bass

Duration: 24:30

Commissioned By:
The Minnesota Orchestra

December 5, 1998 by the Minnesota Orchestra, Eiji Oue, conductor, at Orchestra Hall, Minneapolis, MN

Available From:
Oxford University Press, distributed by C.F. Peters and Goodmusic Publishing

Composer's Notes:
Commissioned by the Minnesota Orchestra, String Symphony is the first in a projected series of new works designated "Centennial Commission" to be premiered in Minneapolis in the years leading up to the Orchestra's centennial celebrations in 2003.

The first piece of orchestral music which took hold of me happened when I was very young. My mother took me to the ballet to see Sheherazade. It was unlike anything I had ever experienced. I had never heard a violin in a live concert performance. I remember closing my eyes and trying to breathe in the music. I think that may have happened.

This String Symphony is both an homage to strings and an essay about them. Strings, the core of the symphony orchestra, are supremely lyrical and supremely emotional. They seem to express something deeply felt in the soul, something deeply lyrical about being, simply, alive. Yet throughout the twentieth century, perhaps marked by the first performance of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring, orchestral compositions have tended to become more and more rhythmic and percussive and less and less lyrical. Interestingly, in each century since the 1600s the orchestra has added a new choir of sound to its ensemble: the Baroque orchestra consisted chiefly of strings, woodwinds were added during the 1700s, brass during the 1800s. The twentieth century has added the percussion section, full of interesting sounds which cannot be made by strings, woodwinds or brass.

I wonder, does the symphony orchestra reflect the culture of sound around us? Music has always been influenced by the spoken language. Italian, German, Russian and French music sounds distinctly Italian, German, Russian and French. Orchestral strings evolve from those cultures and our orchestral repertoire comes from the same cultures more than from any others. So I begin to ask, what is the melody of American English? And can it be best expressed through orchestral strings?

My String Symphony is both a celebration of orchestral strings and a search for their melody as it comes through our language. Most of all, it is a way to express beauty.

— Libby Larsen
Please visit C.F. Peters for the study score or to rent the score and parts.

Score Errata:
Movement II

Measure 61, viola, beat 4, note should be a B natural to match violoncello. This is a mistake in the published score.

Movement III

Measure 48, contrabass, beat 1, note should be an F# to match violoncello.

Measure 49, viola, delete sul pont. Viola is sul pont from measure 46 up to measure 50.

Measure 77, violin I, beat 4, divisi, last sixteenth should be a D natural. This is a mistake in the published score.

Measures 214 & 235, contrabass, beat 1, note should be an A# to match violin II. This is a mistake in the published score.

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