The Seattle Symphony performance at McCurdy Pavilion on June 17th features world premieres from composers Samuel Jones and Philip Glass. (Tickets available online.)
Reflections: Songs of Fathers and Daughters, was composed by Samuel Jones in response to a commission from the Seattle Symphony which specified a work that would celebrate the special relationship between fathers and daughters.
That stipulation, Jones felt, “would be a delight to fulfill. All I had to do was to describe the joy I feel as the father of my own two beautiful daughters.” In practice, however, the composer found it quite challenging to capture the diverse experiences and feelings engendered by this subject and weave them into a coherent musical narrative.
His solution entailed combining the formal characteristics of tone poem and song suite. The piece unfolds in a broad tri-part form, its central section a series of interconnected songs forming a suite within the larger work.
Samuel Jones has been the Seattle Symphony’s Composer in Residence since 1997. During his tenure, Jones has written a number of works for the Symphony, including concertos for three of the orchestra’s principal brass players, and a Cello Concerto premiered in September 2010 by Maestro Gerard Schwarz’s son, Julian.
Reflections: Songs of Fathers and Daughters opens, Jones notes, “with an introductory passage marked by a rippling effect,” one that the composer likens to “the motion of a drop of water falling into a reflective pool.” This aural image of reflection, Jones states, became central to the piece as both a musical and symbolic idea. There follows an extended orchestral song which, according to the composer, expresses the love of a young couple, the searing intensity of new life, and the transcendent joy brought by the birth of a daughter.
This initial chapter gives way to the central suite. Each of its five connected movements is announced by a sweeping harp glissando, and several of the movements use melodies of songs Jones wrote for his girls when they were young. They portray the daughter at advancing ages. The first imagines a skipping, happy child at play. The second, a waltz, shows her becoming a young lady, dancing with her father. The third suggests the father teaching and encouraging his daughter.
In the fourth section, the daughter goes off to school, indicated by references to campus songs, where she becomes a strong and independent young woman. In the fifth, a young man, portrayed by the double basses, suddenly enters her life, and she finds herself deeply in love. This song features the entire bass section in what the composer identifies as one of the most extended cantabile bass-section passages in the orchestral literature.
The ripples of the reflective pool then return, “this time moving farther and farther apart as the daughter leaves to make her new life,” Jones explains. “The piece closes with the love music with which it began, and with reflections of the couple’s life, their little girl flitting across their minds’ eye.”