Symphony No. 3 in d


I Story

II Song, III Dance


And if you should wish it, the score.


My third symphony began with a very small idea that came to me in traffic one day, as many such ideas do. It occurred to me that I might write a cycle of three symphonies, one tragic, the second comic, and the final in some sense sublime. I have withdrawn the formal title, but the idea of pathos still pervades much of the piece, and as the term tragic might suggest, the ending is not an altogether clean or triumphant one.

The drama unfolds slowly at first, and then after a time suddenly expands into full view. The characters, if you will, are the two primary themes. The first is an expansive pastoral theme characterized by falling and winding passages. It evolves slowly from a very lengthy introduction. The second is brazen, militaristic, staccato; replete with triplets and dotted rhythms. It enters suddenly; intrusively. The two ideas do battle over the course of the first and third movements, with the interior movement serving as a point of repose, removed somewhat from the rhetoric of drama, but still gravid with foreboding. The finale, of course, reprises the initial d minor pastoral theme, but wildly transformed; fractured and manic. The ending comes as a flourish on this final dance of abandon.

The piece involves a number of solo passages, and I had very specific people in mind when I wrote most of them. This is particularly true of the flute and oboe solos. I have been blessed to know a flutist and oboist with tremendous experience playing together and an especially good rapport. It was with them in mind that I wrote a passage with flute and oboe timbres flowing out of and melting back into one another in an almost ghostly fashion. To my great dismay the oboist passed away suddenly as I was writing the piece. I was confronted with the death of an acquaintance whose friendship I should like to have nurtured. There are a great many of my friends and acquaintances who knew him better than I, and I ask your indulgence. I do not wish to seem over presumptuous, and given that the piece is neither an oboe concerto nor in any way biographical, this may not seem absolutely fitting, but it may perhaps be the best memorial I can make.


To the memory of Wake Foster