Duration: 12 minutes
Commissioned by the Mandel Foundation and the Utah Arts Festival as winner of the annual Utah Arts Festival Chamber Music Commission
The Wisconsin winter of 2010-11 seemed especially long and arduous. Beginning with a near record snowfall on December 22, the white, driftless landscape endured for months, altered only by the adornment of even more fallen snow beneath gray skies. This was the scene outside of my office window at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire for months on end: silent gray upon silent white, exposing the immovable nature of frozen things. Behind the glass, though, one would not be able to hear the myriad forms of life teeming beneath the frozen rivers, or twittering within the dead, dry foliage, or circling as black specs in the half-lit January sky. As I spent more and more time outside, I grew increasingly amazed at the sheer explosion of life that thrived in the forbidding climate. A native Californian, my thoughts naturally turned to the resilient people of this exotic north country--their fearless resolve to confront the elements, to even take pleasure in them. The world briefly glimpsed this blissful
determination during the weeks of protest in Madison. Regardless of political leanings, one could not but be impressed by the exuberant parade of humanity marching arm in arm as temperatures hovered around and below freezing.
Musically, Winter’s Burst is set in three major sections. An introduction reminiscent of the ‘twittering’ animal life and crackling of the ice gives way to allusions of tolling bells, followed by a robust allegro juxtaposing soaring melodies and vibrant, angular rhythms. The middle section recalls the slow introduction, now with greater harmonic severity and dissonance, eventually melting away before triumphant bell-like echoes. The middle section also introduces a brief quotation of Franz Schubert’s setting of “Der Lindenbaum” (The Linden Tree)--a bittersweet song from his own melancholic set of ruminations on death and winter in Winterreise (Winter Journey). The third section returns to the pulsating allegro, replete with echoes of prior material and unexpected detours.
Concert Premiere: June 25, 2011 by the Utah Arts Festival Chamber Ensemble