The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra will present the next installment in its yearlong celebration of Pittsburgh composers over the weekend of February 7–9 with a program that features new compositions by Department of Music faculty members Mathew Rosenblum and Amy Williams and graduate student Bomi Jang. Rosenblum, Williams, and Jang are three of the five composers commissioned by the PSO to contribute one movement each to a five-movement composition titled The Elements. Each composer’s piece will take as its theme one of the archaic elements such as earth, water, air, fire, and metal.
The remaining two composers also have strong ties to the music department. Reza Vali, a member of the composition faculty at Carnegie Mellon University, completed his PhD here in 1985. Patrick Burke teaches musicianship at Duquesne University and has appeared twice on Music on the Edge as part of NOW Ensemble, most recently in 2013.
The significance of having a world class orchestra play their compositions isn’t lost on the composers who know all to well how elusive such a opportunity can be. Williams describes it as, “… great honor to work with one of the world’s best orchestras,” and she is effusive about sharing the bill with composers she considers both colleagues and friends.
For her movement in The Elements, Williams dealt with water, choosing the massive Pittsburgh flood of 1936 as her theme. She says that the piece, like the tragic flood, “rises swiftly, ominously, and relentlessly. And then, once reaching its peak, it quickly subsides to a peaceful and strangely serene setting.” She also intersperses music one might have heard on the radio in 1936 throughout the work as a means of evoking the era.
Mathew Rosenblum’s movement explores metal elements. Titled Eliza Furnace, Rosenblum utilizes metallic percussion instruments, brass and flutes to evoke both Pittsburgh’s past as a center of industry, and its emergence as what he enthusiastically describes as “a model for sustainability, environmental responsibility, and the arts.”
You can hear The Elements at Heinz Hall on February 7–9. Manfred Honeck will also lead the PSO in a performance of Gustav Holst’s perennial favorite The Planets in a presentation that will include NASA video of our solar system.
Find out more about tickets to this concert.