Four Winter Scenes

Grade 5

9 minutes

Commissioned by the Manassas Symphony Orchestra, Jim Villani, conductor. Premiered December 10, 2016 at the Hylton Performing Arts Center, Manassas, Virginia.

Jim Villani, conductor and music director for the Manassas Symphony Orchestra, asked me to write an 8-10 minute piece of 4-5 very short movements that would invoke images of fun winter activities: building snowmen, having a snowball fight, making snow angels, etc. As I made my initial sketches and developed my ideas, I quickly realized that the sound of each movement was clearly influenced by composers I respect and admire. Although the finished piece is my original work, I felt it appropriate to acknowledge my music’s similarity to some truly great composers.

I. “Ottorio looks out the window”……and sees snow, so he and his friends go tearing outside to explore the possibilities. The opening bars of the piece are pretty clearly influenced by the first movement of Respighi’s Pines of Rome.

II. “Johnny is drawn into a snowball war”…by getting smacked on the side of the face with an unprovoked attack. This movement probably recalls movie music of John Williams, particularly his militaristic marches. Williams also often uses fugues when depicting movement by large groups.

III. “Gustav makes snow angels”…because he’s a bit of a dreamer and likes to go his own way. I hear echoes of Venus, The Bringer of Peace from Holst’s The Planets, but I acknowledge Claude Debussy’s influence as well.

IV. “John races down the mountain”…on his skis for an exhilarating ride. I love John Adams’s fast music, particularly the first movement of Shaker Loops and the last movements of Harmonium and Harmonielehre. In addition to the sheer speed and energy of this movement, I also included a restatement of the main theme of the first movement to bring the work to a close.

A final note regarding the creation of this piece: Between the time I was asked to write it and when I finished it, the Army moved my family and I to duty in Hawaii. It was a strange sensation, writing music invoking white snowscapes and chilly temperatures while in 80-degree heat surrounded by blue skies and palm trees. Strangely, no one offered any sympathy for my plight.