Five Meditations (1967, rev. 1974/80)
for English Horn, Harp, and Strings
- Fugue: Adagio
- Carol: Allegretto grazioso
- Air: Andante
- Dance: Allegro
- Motet: Andante sostenuto
Duration: 18 min.
Dedication: to Stephen Gruen
Recording: Laurel LR-849
Premiere: 1981; Bay Ridge Music Festival; A. Rosner
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My earliest compositions were most strongly influenced by the romantics. In my teens I had already written four symphonies clearly in the Dvořák-Mahler-Shostakovich lineage. By 1967, two distinct forces brought about at least a temporary change. The first was the simple fact that none of my works had been performed and my full orchestral scores seemed relegated to permanent obscurity. The second was the study, at the graduate level, of Renaissance music in general and the works of Josquin des Prez in particular. A distinct product of these stimuli was Five Meditations. There are those who will see in it a parallel to the five-part ordinary of the mass. Shortly before writing it, I had completed my first a cappella mass, based on Greensleeves; some years later I went on to write my Symphony No. 5, an explicit orchestral mass analogue.
In any case, there is some arch-symmetry to the overall shape; the outer movements are the most richly contrapuntal. Nos. 2 and 4 are quick and dance-like and the middle movement is the most songful. The original version had an entirely different second movement, patterned after Indian classical music. I have since come to feel that most Western attempts to approximate Asian or African ethnic music are dilute and even inept, and cannot hold a candle to the real thing. The “revised” second movement is taken from my Musique de Clavecin of 1974. I must also acknowledge a prior source for the last movement in the first portion of Josquin’s motet Miserere Mei Deus, in which the tenor intones a starkly arresting line fifteen times, changing its starting pitch each time, so as to ascend and then descend the range of an octave. In my version the English horn replaces the tenor and spans out not one but two octaves. All our contrapuntal and connective material is my own. (Notes by Arnold Rosner)