Any concert by the West Seattle Community Orchestras is special – WSCO is our area’s only multi-age musical organization of its type, nurturing and providing a creative outlet for musicians of many age ranges and skill levels. But next Friday’s concert (7:30 pm May 30th, Chief Sealth IHS auditorium) includes something extra-special – the premiere of a new symphony by WSCO’s Rob Duisberg, who explains:
At this concert I will be conducting the premiere of the newly completed symphony in three movements, “A Magyar Szimfónia,” which I have composed expressly for this orchestra. It has been a work in progress for a number of years, with parts of the work heard in earlier seasons. So the writing interestingly tracks the development of the ensemble over the last few years, which has grown tremendously in membership and musicianship in that time, building on the dedicated work of its founder, Dr. Toni Reineke, and more recently with the talented direction of Kimberly Roy.
For instance, the new finale is rather more challenging and showcases the group’s abilities dramatically. I feel this piece to be a tribute to the growth and development of an increasingly fine performing arts educational resource in our West Seattle community.
In addition, this symphony tracks a progression of discovery of ethnic roots. The whole work has developed as a paean to my mother, Agnes Adámy, a Hungarian immigrant and refugee who was unable ever to return home. She came to America as a student of English literature just before the outbreak of World War II. After a year of study, her parents sent a telegram that she should “wait until this all blows over,” but as they were killed upon the Russian “liberation” of Hungary, she remained a war refugee here and kept her heritage tucked away inside for the rest of her life. I have learned more about this heritage recently through the remarkably large and active Hungarian American Association of Washington, and the annual week-long summer Hungarian folk music and dance camp, Ti Ti Tábor, which attracts hundreds of participants from the entire region. My involvement in these communities has infused this new symphony with a rich abundance of Magyar motifs and melodies.
— Robert Adámy Duisberg, PhD, DMA
Composer in residence, conductor and president
West Seattle Community Orchestras
(The portrait of Agnes Adámy, above right, is by Trileigh Tucker.) If you would like to preview the concert’s program notes for the symphony, Duisberg shared those too; read on!
The composition of “A Magyar Szimfónia” (“Hungarian Symphony”) comes out of a layered set of historical journeys: cultural, musical and genealogical.
The “Fantasies” of the first movement (“Fantáziák”) were conceived four years ago, when the West Seattle Community Orchestras were a new organization growing out of the earlier Westside Symphonette. It was written as a single piece for the orchestra as it was at the time, and for the “unique” instrumentation we had then. Happily, it was well received, and members encouraged me to “do something more with it,” so adding movements to complete a larger structure seemed a natural progression.
The second movement, written the following year, has the subtitle “Az Én Kedves Anyámnak,” meaning “For My Dear Mother.” She came to this country from Budapest as a student in 1940 with no intention of staying. After a year in school, and the outbreak of chaos in Europe, she found return impossible and became a refugee and ultimately and accidental American. This is a slow movement, beginning with a funereal Andante, which builds into keening dissonance before giving way to a lullaby in a trio of string soloists. After a segment of “night music,” the movement sets up a dialogue between the cortège and the cradle, ending ambiguously.
The finale, “Régi Dalok” (“Old Songs”) follows “attacca,” without break. It is here that the Hungarian energy comes fully forward. Melodies embodying the rhythms of this extraordinary language are drawn from folk songs Bartók collected a hundred years ago, from Bartók himself, from my own earlier work, and from earlier movements in this symphony – old songs at many levels.
The harmonic and contrapuntal language of this music has been intriguing to develop as it has revealed itself to me. With an intention to write new music for these players, to compose something gratifying to play that rewards their efforts, I have rejected the arch atonality that has rendered much “modern music” ungrateful to both player and listener. If anything, this piece might be called “hyper-tonal” or “pan-tonal” as melodies hew to their own tonal shapes while sounding against other voices in distinctly different spaces, leading to a stretching or expansion of the tonal landscape.
As this piece has been composed specifically for the West Seattle Symphony Orchestra, it in some ways reflects the development of the ensemble. With ever-rising excellence of the orchestra’s performance, so too the successive movements of this symphony are progressively more challenging, both technically and musically.
Find out more about WSCO – including Friday’s concert and, if interested, how and when to join – at wscorchestras.org.
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