Little Symphonies Nos. 3 & 4

ENS.2021.2 | 16′ + 16′
String Orchestra: or larger

Little Symphony No. 3: Score

Little Symphony No. 4: Score

Little Symphony No. 3

I. Sturm

II. Naive

III. Sentamentalische

IV. Drang

Little Symphony No. 4

I. Skyscrapers

II. Pictures

III. Contredanse

IV. Folk Dance

Little Symphonies Nos. 3 & 4

My ongoing series of Little Symphonies looks back to classical models, paying homage to composers I love while providing a sturdy model to play with and against. Harmonic permutations and cycles bind the movements into symphonies and symphonies into cycles, while the thematic material of each separate movement takes on purely classical garb.
In my first set of two Little Symphonies, individual movements were directly inspired by composers from Beethoven and Stravinsky to Morton Feldman, while this second set, composed for string orchestra, opposes Mozart and the classical style (in 3) with neoclassicism and modernism (in 4).
The third Little Symphony takes Mozart and the classical style as its prototype, while the fourth approaches Bartok and the moderns. Accordingly, in this third symphony the outer movements are cast in sonata form and rondo-finale, the inner as two extremely ersatz folk dances. Since the work gestures toward the late eighteenth century, it seemed appropriate to title these pairs of movements Sturm und drang and Naive und sentimentalische.
In the fourth Little Symphony my principle models were Béla Bartók and Philip Glass; in fact, the second and fourth movements are literally marked “Ersatz Glass” and “Ersatz Bartok.” More than just simple homages, however, these are reappraisals, parodies, appropriations, and critiques of the instantly recognizable styles of these influential—perhaps too influential composers.
The opening Skyscrapers, a cubist urban portrait smushing Bartok’s Divertimento into Glass’s Symphony No. 3, is followed by Pictures, which smears saccharine, soaring melodies over familiar arpeggios and kitschy Vivaldi. The symphony continues with a counterfeit Contredanse, and finally a phony Folk Dance finale.