ANTHONY IANNACCONE (b.1943) : Night Rivers, Symphony No.3 (1992), Bridges, Symphony No.4 (2019) , Waiting for Sunrise on the Sound (1998), Concertante for Clarinet and Orchestra (1994), From Time to Time, Fantasias on Two Appalachian Folksongs (2000): I. Once upon a Time: Crosscurrents Remembered, From Time to Time, Fantasias on Two Appalachian Folksongs (2000): II. Moving Time: a Millennium Ride.
Catalogue Number: 01Y008
Label: Navona Records
Description: It is a pleasure to welcome a symphonist of considerable substance, working within the American neo-romantic, tonal tradition. Iannaccone's 3rd Symphony, "Night Rivers" (1992) condenses the contrasts and overall continuous form of the traditional symphony into a taut single span of some 20 minutes. Walt Whitman's poetry, an important influence on the composer, is the impetus behind this work, especially his mystical meditations, laden with the most beautiful abundance of vivid metaphors, on death. In the symphony’s development we view the long parade of images in Whitman’s “The Sleepers”, describing every possible kind of transit from life to death - noble, pitiful, violent, tragic, resigned, peaceful - of the multitude of "sleeping" figures encountered by the narrator, and are transported on the "Ripples of unseen rivers, tides of a current flowing, forever flowing" in his "Whispers of Heavenly Death". The symphony begins with a soft, looming bass drone, from which a luminous ascending figure takes flight into the heights. This is joined by a series of descending chromatic scales, leading to a swarm of activity which dissipates, and a lyrical violin solo takes centre stage. These motifs then engage in a vigorous development section based on augmentations, transformations, and textural changes of their original forms. After a general pause, the music resumes with further transformations of the work's main three motifs, now cast in terms of a slow movement. This is abruptly interrupted by a brusquely combative, martial "scherzo", based on the same material. This reaches an obsessively pounding, violent conclusion and evaporates, giving way to a slow resumption of the original rising and falling motifs in the symphony’s mysterious finale, announcing that "Peace is always beautiful, the myth of heaven indicates peace and night", that "Every one that sleeps is beautiful, every thing in the dim light is beautiful". It was a quarter-century before Iannaccone returned to the symphony, but his idiom remains remarkably consistent across this span of time. The powerful, dynamic Fourth Symphony bears the title "Bridges", which bears some explanation. The composer, with the characteristically thoughtful, philosophical approach that underpins all his work, tells us that: "Metaphorical bridges have provided writers with symbols to express thoughts on a variety of subjects, including, but not limited to, thematic polarities such as loss and redemption, despair and hope, mortality, and immortality. While many of these pairings imply change or movement, nearly all imply a connection from one place or condition, spiritual or physical, to another. Real bridges have also inspired authors, visual artists, and composers to respond in words, paintings, pictures, and music to specific bridges and to events associated with them. Symphony No. 4 deals with three real bridges and with “bridge” as metaphor" and invokes Hart Crane's proposition that “The very idea of a bridge is an act of faith.” The impetus behind the first movement is the audacious, but disastrous leap of faith that led to 35,000 Allied troops being dropped behind enemy lines in an attempt to secure five vital crossings of the Rhine in WWII, resulting in massive casualties. The movement begins with a furious outburst of energy, first cousin to the nightmare battlescapes of Vaughan Williams 4 and 6. The bulk of the movement is imbued with this warlike spirit, a hurtling juggernaut of implacable battlefield violence. Contrasting lyrical episodes quote fragments of the British war song "Bless 'em All" (a Vera Lynn standard), in melodic entreaties for the return of the doomed troops. The middle movement “Imagination and Endurance" commemorates the visionary, heroic engineering marvel of the second half of the 19th century that is the Brooklyn Bridge, designed by John Augustus Roebling and (after he suffered a fatal accident while surveying the site), his son Washington Roebling, with the assistance of the latter's wife, Emily Warren Roebling. Washington Roebling was permanently disabled by "the bends" (decompression sickness), which took the lives of a number of workers due to the hazardous conditions under which the foundations of the towers were constructed deep beneath the surface of the East River. Beginning with a germ of an idea, which typically for Iannaccone, becomes the principal material of the movement, the music soon swells to monumental grandeur, rugged magnificence, and dramatic turbulence, as befits the imposing edifice depicted and the struggles and tragedy surrounding its construction. Flowing episodes seem to suggest the mighty river, unconcerned even with the heroic striving taking place on its banks and in its depths, and the soaring coda, recapitulating the opening motif, is like sunrise over the completed structure. The finale depicts another storied New York bridge dear to the composer, the Verrazzano-Narrows (Verrazano) bridge. By contrast with the monumental Romantic edifice portrayed in the Brooklyn Bridge movement, this "strong, streamlined, Art Deco arm reaching out over the Narrows tidal strait" in the composer’s words elicits a propulsive, energetic, exultant allegro, not without a certain triumphant bombast, celebrating the audacious structure flung out over the waters : "This stunning bridge, a sleek emblem of modern technological prowess, also had a history that included numerous challenges and adversities … As a young man, I loved to gaze up at the nearly 700-foot towers and the massive pairs of cables that swung up to and swooped down from those sky-scraping towers, reflecting afternoon sun or glistening with lights at night." Waiting for Sunrise on the Sound is a substantial dramatic tone poem, written a few years after the 3rd Symphony. It has distinctly programmatic content, based on the composer’s dream-recollections and conflation of boating experiences on the Long Island Sound in his childhood. On several occasions, he tells us, the small boat ventured beyond the tranquil waters of the Sound onto the fringes of the open ocean, where "… sudden summer storms and rough seas turned a pleasant trip into a nightmare for a young boy. High waves and relentless wind and rain made even a substantial fishing boat seem like an insignificant toy on a vast and omnipotent ocean." The music clearly follows this trajectory, beginning in gentle, mysterious darkness, the boat setting out on calm waters. Premonitions of catastrophe surge up and are quelled, but soon ominous gusts of wind herald the arrival of a violent storm, turning the glassy waters into "… larger and larger black towers of water that engulfed the vessel." The storm sequence is as impressive and cinematic as one might wish, but all ends well as the tempest blows itself out as quickly as it struck, to be replaced by reassuring calm and the growing radiance of a glorious sunrise. The clarinet Concertante treats the soloist and orchestra as equal players in the drama, but in terms of its expressive and technical demands is a fully-fledged clarinet concerto. Playing in a continuous span, it is divided into three distinct movements. The first begins with a mysterious orchestral introduction, which, typically of the composer, presents the principal material of the work. The clarinet attempts a lighthearted entry, but the orchestra reacts with unexpected vehemence. The clarinet persists, with a lyrical passage accompanied by the richly textured mysterious opening material, but soon the mood becomes combative once more, and a succession of increasingly belligerent confrontations between soloist and ensemble ensue. The battle ends with the orchestra overwhelming the clarinet, and then a glowing major chord emerges, forming the background to ethereal string textures and a melancholy melody from the soloist, which gradually becomes more confident and warmly supported by the ensemble. The two become dance partners in the opening of the lively, scherzo-esque, which reintroduces material from earlier in the piece, though now the clarinet easily holds its own, twirling arabesques around the orchestra's boisterous propulsion, and joining in the frenzied climax that ends the work. The Fantasias are substantial tone poems with a resonant historical background. The first explores the complicated and violent contradictions inherent in the colonial history of the Commonwealth of Virginia, which the composer researched during his residency with the Virginia Symphony. Episodes of violence alternate with lyrical passages of great solemnity and emotional depth, and the composer cunningly exploits the "thematic symbiosis" between "…Marvin Hamlisch’s expressive popular song “The Way We Were” where a melodic pattern on the words “[Mem’ries] light the corners of my mind” is identical to the same melodic fragment on the words “and the prettiest of hands” from the folksong “Black Is the Color of My True Love’s Hair" - the principal theme of the piece. The energetic and propulsive second movement is based on the folksong “Shenandoah,” but Iannaccone recasts it in what he calls “a festive setting that celebrates the promise of the future" - the work was written in the year 2000, and represents “a fast launch into a new millennium". Royal Scottish National Orchestra | Alexander Jiménez, conductor. 2CDs