Commissioned by the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra
First performance: March 19, 1993 Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, Heiichiro Ohyama, cond., Los Angeles
Antiphonies, commissioned by the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, is essentially a concerto grosso, somewhat reminiscent of Baroque style and cast in a single 17-minute movement. The title reflects two important aspects of the piece. First, it is antiphonal: several musical ideas are tossed about by the various smaller ensembles that make up the whole—double reeds, horns, solo piano, solo strings and tutti strings. Second, the solo strings introduce an antiphon-like, modal melody fairly near the beginning of the piece. This melody recurs a number of times and becomes the central idea of the last large section, an extended adagio. At the very end of the work the music seems to disappear, almost in a puff of smoke. Czeslaw Milosz, whose poetry I was reading during the composition of Antiphonies, captures the essence of it:
We are riding through frozen fields in a wagon at dawn.
A red wing rose in the darkness.
And suddenly a hare ran across the road
One of us pointed to it with his hand.
That was long ago. Today neither of them is alive,
Not the hare, nor the man who made the gesture.
O my love, where are they, where are they going
The flash of a hand, streak of movement, rustle of pebbles.
I ask not out of sorrow, but in wonder.
from Bells in Winter
- Donald Crockett