Symphony No. 2 ("Pas de Deux") (2017)
Instrumentation: solo clarinet; solo trombone; wind ensemble
Commissioned by: Ben and Jackie McIlwain
Symphony No. 2 ("Pas de Deux") was commissioned by and is dedicated to Jackie & Ben McIlwain, the University of Southern Mississippi Wind Ensemble, and its conductor Catherine Rand. It is an honor to have composed this double sinfonia concertante for such extraordinary musicians at my alma mater.
In classical ballet a pas de deux is a dance in which two dancers, typically one male and one female, engage in a lengthy duet. Likewise, Symphony No. 2 features two primary soloists and is also structured after the four sections of the traditional pas de deux: entreé, adagio, variations, and coda.
Entreé introduces each soloist with a cadenza-like passage surrounded by repetitions of a short, dissonant, widely spaced chord. The melodic material performed by the soloists here will develop and transform throughout the entire symphony.
The ensuing Adagio is a 21st-century interpretation of the saraband (known to classical music lovers as a standard slow movement in Baroque dance suites). Though the harmonic language is decidedly contemporary, the stately tempo, emphasis on beat two, and triple meter are all familiar characteristics of the antique dance form. In this movement the soloists eventually merge before a terrifying climax halts the newfound union.
Movement III, Variations, presents a kaleidoscopic metamorphosis of musical ideas presented in prior movements. The tempo is double that of what the listener has encountered previously. Allusions to latin rhythms, jazz, funk, swing, and fanfares permeate this scherzo-like movement.
The finale, Coda, doubles the tempo yet again as the music launches into a sinister and mechanical presto. Both the soloists and the wind ensemble are required to demonstrate their technical virtuosity. The short, dissonant chord from the opening of the symphony returns and is repeated with increasing frequency as the piece hurtles toward a crashing climax.
Symphony No. 2 had its world premiere on April 27, 2017 at the University of Southern Mississippi. The piece has been subsequently performed at Middle Tennessee State University in February 2019 (with the dedicatees as soloists).
(Recording may take a moment to start)