|About this Recording
8.559791 - SAUL, W.: Kiev 2014 / Violin Concerto / Overture for the Jubilee (Rong-Huey Liu, Buswell, Saul, Ukraine National Symphony, Kuchar)
Walter Saul (b. 1954)
The golden domes and spires of the nearly thousand-year-old Saint Sophia Cathedral lift our spirits up from the earth toward heaven, and its many icons point us to spiritual realities. May the works presented here, recorded by Theodore Kuchar and the National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine in Kiev so close to this landmark, elevate us in a similar manner. For my mission as a composer is to create musical icons, windows of sonic light, that usher listeners into the presence of Jesus Christ and reveal a little of God’s heavenly glory to us. These six pieces, composed over a 40-year span, realize this mission in contrasting ways.
Kiev 2014: Rhapsody for Oboe and Orchestra (2014) reflects on the history, challenges and hope for Ukraine in the 21st century. The orchestra opens aggressively with dark music inspired by the recent attacks on Eastern Ukraine and Kiev’s tumultuous history of occupation by foreign powers. Reminiscent of ancient chants, a quiet oboe solo is a still, small voice, suggesting the hope of Christ for this land, just as He has been the hope of Kiev since 988, when its rulers first embraced the Christian message. At first, the oboe attracts but a small following: only another oboe, English horn, and harp, even as the brass and percussion rise in warfare against the little band. The strings and woodwinds survey the carnage and endure yet another round of conflict. At last, as the orchestra triumphantly recalls the quiet solo, its melody becomes a paean of hope and victory.
The Concerto for Violin and Orchestra (1980) is in two movements, connected by a cadenza for the solo violin. The slow first movement is in three main sections, each of which divides in three subsections, reflecting on our Lord as the Holy Trinity. The second movement is a rousing passacaglia based on a twelve-tone row, a reflection of the people of the Lord, represented by the twelve tribes of Israel and the twelve disciples of Christ. The passacaglia spins itself out in a sonata form, with an opening jubilant theme that progresses through a disturbing transition to a tranquil chorale. The development takes on the form of a fugue which, as it splits into dozens of voices, paints the innumerable multitude of heaven gathered up in triumph.
I composed the Overture for the Jubilee in 1997 on commission by the Quincy Symphony Orchestra of Quincy, Illinois, for their 50th anniversary. This work explores the theme of Jubilee as outlined in Leviticus 25 and the history of Quincy and its namesake, John Quincy Adams, the sixth President of the United States of America, who was the most ardent abolitionist in pre-Civil War US history. As the Overture reflects on Quincy’s role, notably as an important station in the Underground Railroad, in ending slavery, so God’s Jubilee, fully realized by Jesus Christ, ends our slavery and indebtedness to sin.
From Life To Greater Life (1978) celebrates the transformation of life through death into the eternal life promised by Jesus Christ in the Scriptures, through the path of a single chord, seemingly stuck in the deep earth, undergoing change, reshaping, and re-voicing, to ascend into heaven for eternity. The whispered opening string tremolos sound one tone, G, in the extreme registers, then add two more tones, suggesting the signature of the Godhead in three Persons on this newly-created chord with a gaping chasm in the centre that must be filled. After the chord expands, these three tones fill the void and form the opening motives of the two contrasting themes in this overture, cast in a modified sonata form.
The Mt. Hood Pops Orchestra in Portland, Oregon, commissioned A Christmas Symphony (1992) for the celebration of its 10th anniversary. Its four movements Gabriel, Star, Simeon and Gloria paint four significant scenes of Christmas: the Annunciation of Jesus Christ’s birth to Mary, the divinely-led journey of the Magi, the recognition of Simeon the priest of the promised Messiah, and the angels’ glorious song of celebration of His birth. The slow third movement, Simeon, is also an elegy for my wife’s mother, Agnes Lois Ward Johnson. The oboe solo after the opening string feature spells out the musical letters of her name: A-G-E-S-S-A-D-H-S. The S is German for Eb and the H is German for B natural.
Metamorphosis (1974) is a single movement fantasia quasi sonata for piano obbligato and orchestra. This work reflects on my own metamorphosis as a follower of Jesus Christ. A fantasia quasi sonata in the manner of Franz Liszt’s Après une lecture du Dante, the metamorphosis progresses from a tentative opening in the woodwinds to increasingly emboldened piano solos and orchestral responses. The work culminates in a profound peace, a peace that, in the midst of external and internal warfare, continues to manifest itself in me and in our world today.
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