SYMPHONY FOR ORCHESTRA

Composer: 

Year Authored (or revised): 

1989

Instrumentation : 

2+pic, 2+EH, 2+bscl, 2+cbsn; 432+bstbn,1, timp, perc(1), hp, strings, Baritone solo 4th movement

Duration (min): 

25:00

Movements-Titles: 

I. Un poco sostenuto
II. Scherzo
III. Adagio
IV. Keats Sonnet 7:21

Text Source/Author: 

Keats - Sonnet - To Sleep

Recording: 

BMOP 1027

Boykan’ s Symphony for Orchestra is a fascinating work. In many ways, Boykin also admits, this work is a fairly traditional four movement symphony but with a harmonic vocabulary that speaks to Berg or Schoenberg; much more so than in the Concerto. The confluence of a structural form – including the use of a solo vocalist – that is fairly traditional but with a swirling, nebulous harmonic center is a bit unusual and is somewhat reminiscent of Mahler.

For me, the first two movements of this Symphony are interesting and do hold the interest, but it is the second half that provide the most payoff. The fairly brief Adagio opens with broad chord that pronounces, subsides and then provides the material to long line, poignant melodies. The mood is generally sad or at least ponderous and it reminded me, peripherally, of the Adagio in the Mahler ninth.

The most fascinating aspect of this piece is the closing “Keats Sonnet”, which is essentially a song/lied for baritone and orchestra. In this case, the Keats sonnet is his “To Sleep”, one of his most existential and restless musings on the metaphor of death as sleep. The tone is appropriately troubling but beautiful. The movement conjured up moments of Berg’s Seven Early Songs to me and soloist Sanford Sylvan performs once again, brilliantly! (Sylvan is an active performer of contemporary vocal and operatic literature and may be known best for his many involvements in the music of John Adams)

Martin Boykan is, clearly, a gifted and interesting composer and this recording give us a great introduction to his music. His is the sort of music that may not be an immediate “hit” to all listeners but it is compelling and engaging and all should be able to listen to with great interest. Kudos, again, to BMOP for bringing more intriguing works to our attention.

—Daniel Coombs

Print Edition Price: 

$69.95 full score
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