From the recording Menuetto: Tempo giusto
Symphony #1 in D major
Originally composed in 1978, the Symphony #1 in D major is a reasonable facsimile of a classical period piece written in the style of Haydn and his contemporaries. The twenty-five year-old composer wrote the piece somewhat in response to a comment by a venerably aged old professor who assertively proclaimed with the majestic academic authority that security of tenure provides that “tonal music is dead.”
The symphony is unapologetically written in the key of D major, and is cast in the traditional four movement form: I. Andante più Allegro, II. Romance, III. Menuetto, and IV. Finale. In composing the piece, every attempt has been made to avoid any post-classical affectations of harmony that might mar the effect of this very straightforward latter-day model of a classical symphony, with a single exception that a drum set is employed as part of the orchestral ensemble.
The composer explains that the interpolation of the drums into the symphony should not be perceived as a contemporary anachronism because nothing is changed in the music itself and the drums bring an atmosphere of instrumental freshness to an ancient form without contradicting or canceling its intended purposes.
The first movement consists of an operatic slow introduction marked Andante mesto that leads directly into an Allegro that is set in sonata form. These two contrasting moods set the stage for the drama that is to unfold in the course of the symphony. At the opening of the exposition, the principal theme establishes a feeling of bold enthusiasm enhanced by martial flourishes with heroic overtones. The lyrical subordinate theme provides a warm playful gracefulness that contrasts with the energetic nature of the first theme. The interplay and development of these two thematic ideas can be characterized as a musical tapestry that is woven together of melodic strands blending harmoniously into an animated symphonic whole. Near the end of the recapitulation, the Andante mesto theme returns before the final coda as a type of ritornello that balances the two moods of the opening movement.
The second movement, entitled Romance is marked Andante grazioso and is a stately processional that has been employed separately as a bridal march. Echoes of “here comes the bride” can be discerned in the underlying rhythm. The movement is cast in da capo aria form, and the main theme has an expressive quality of gentle melodic simplicity, serene and uncomplicated as it traverses the spectrum of its harmonic sojourn.
While the third movement harks back to the pre-scherzo days of the Menuetto, it possesses the interesting rhythmic character of a jazz waltz in 9/8 time. This juxtaposition is a perfectly natural extension of poetic, or rather compositional license and does not detract from the purity of the minuet’s formal structure.
The Finale is a sonata-rondo form in 6/8 time, marked Allegro molto. In this final movement the symphony is brought to a dramatic conclusion reminiscent of the last act of a comic opera in which all the characters are brought on stage for a tumultuous climactic scene. In the coda section the Andante mesto of the first movement introduction is recalled like a memory of an almost forgotten tragic romance, and after a moment of bittersweet reflection, the symphony ends in a celebratory spirit of triumphant exaltation.
The Symphony in D major received its inaugural performance at a concert given in 1979 at the Bernardi Community Center with the composer conducting the Van Nuys Civic Orchestra. An electronic rendition of the symphony using drums, piano and guitar was subsequently recorded in 1980. The final version, performed in concert on September 26, 2009, is a confluence of these two earlier manifestations, and is scored for woodwinds, horns and trumpets in pairs, a percussion section consisting of timpani and drum set, with the standard complement of strings.
This archival recording features James Domine conducting the San Fernando Valley Symphony Orchestra.