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Significant Others

orchestra (2018)

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2 + picc. 2 + Eng. hn. 2 + bcl. 2 + contra / / timp. 3 perc. / hp. piano / strings


Duration: 10 minutes
Commissioned by: Seattle Symphony
Premiere: June 14, 2018
Seattle Symphony at Benaroya Hall, Seattle, WA
Ludovic Morlot, conductor

program note

Written by Paul Sciavo. Used with permission.

Alexandra Gardner is Seattle Symphony’s Composer in Residence for the 2017-2018 season, but her association with the orchestra predates her appointment to that post. In 2012 the Symphony commissioned and performed Just Say Yes as part of the Sonic Evolution series. Previously, in 2007, Gardner had composed a piece for Seattle Chamber Players, three of whose four members play with the Seattle Symphony.

Gardner’s music exemplifies the best of the eclecticism that characterizes so much composition in this new millennium. She writes for diverse ensembles, both large and small, and sometimes incorporates electronics sounds into her compositions. Her music can be spiky and rhythmically complex or lyrical and mellifluent, often in the same piece.

Commissioned by the Seattle Symphony, Significant Others receives its first performances this week. Knowing that the work would be paired with music by Leonard Bernstein, Gardner prepared by studying the composer-conductor’s life and music. She was struck, she says, by “the contrast between his exceedingly charming, joyful, outgoing, brilliant musical personality, and the internal conflict he clearly experienced around his sexuality.” His long marriage notwithstanding, Bernstein had a succession of male lovers; and while he felt deeply about each of them, he tended soon to move on to a new person who captured his attention.

While certainly not representing Bernstein’s romantic life through any specific musical imagery, Significant Others offers an analogy in being, Gardner notes, “a single-movement romp through a variety of musical scenes that are closely related in sonic terms, but that explore different sorts of contrast. We all have many different types of relationships in our lives, through friends, family, and work situations. While those connections may seem very different on the outside, there are often similarities to be found in the nature of our interactions. In my compositions, I enjoy exploring the different directions that a chunk of music can take, so there are sections of Significant Others that repeat, with the music traveling in a different direction — sometimes extremely different — each time. The overall feeling is bright and joyful, with a clear sense of rhythm and pulse, but a bittersweet streak can be heard as well.”

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