Dreaming of the Masters II
Instrumentation: 2222/4331/timp, 2 perc(2nd plays drum set), solo pno/strgs
Composition Date: 2007
Commissioned by: Commissioned by CBC Radio and the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra and premiered on February 21/22, 2008 at the Francis Winspear Centre for Music by the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, William Eddins conductor and soloist.
In 2005 the ESO performed at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa as part of the Alberta Scene festival. This was a wonderful night and the concert closed with my Dreaming of the Masters I. Bill Eddins was in attendance and during intermission told me he was especially interested to hear “Dreaming” as he had been thinking of a piece with a similar theme called Rhapsody GEB. He was looking for a “companion” piece to Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue that would be inspired by Gershwin, Ellington and Bernstein. He told me that if he liked what he heard we would talk after the concert. Since you’re about to hear the premiere of Dreaming of the Masters II you can probably guess that he liked what he heard.
My “Dreaming” series arose from a desire to combine my experience as an orchestral composer with my background as a jazz player. I wanted to write a series of Jazz Concertos for soloists who where comfortable in both classical and jazz idioms. Each concerto would be inspired by the jazz greats of that particular instrument and though fully notated, would allow the player to improvise. Dreaming of the Masters I was written for clarinetist James Campbell and has become my most performed orchestral work. It even took Jim and I to Symphony Hall in Boston for a concert with the Boston Pops.
This new concerto is titled Dreaming of the Masters II - Rhapsody GEB and is inspired by Gershwin, Ellington and Bernstein. It differs from Dreaming I in two ways. First, rather than three distinct movements this concerto is one continuous movement and reflects the form of rhapsody. Secondly, this concerto does not have a jazz bass or drum set. which were very prominent in Dreaming I. This was a hard decision to make as I had intended to use them. I realized as I orchestrated though that the need was so little they would become a distraction when they did finally play. The result is a concerto with more traditional roles for soloist and orchestra.
The form of the work follows the letters GEB. Section one pays homage to Gershwin with two themes. The first, fast and loosely based on the blues and the second, slow and sweeping. Toward the end of this section I bring both themes together revealing that they are actually constructed from the same harmony. Section two reflects the compositional style of Duke Ellington. The theme in AABA song form with the A section recalling the highly chromatic nature of Duke’s writing. A phrygian melody is prominent in the B section giving it a Spanish flavor. Section three is least like its inspiration. The only reference to Bernstein comes toward the beginning of the section where I allude to the Prelude and Mambo from West Side Story. The bulk of this section is a large canon beginning with a bass line and ending with, a jazz players say, the piano “trading fours” with the orchestra. This all leads to a recap of the Gershwin themes.
I would like to thank Bill Eddins for all his hard work and encouragement with this work. I think he has had a profound influence on our orchestra and community. I would also like to thank CBC radio and the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra for their support of this commission and CBC is recording this performance for future broadcast.