Mr. Tambourine Man Down Under ::::: Schirmer News Fall 2009

Mr. Tambourine Man Down Under ::::: Schirmer News Fall 2009
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John Corigliano takes his Grammy-award winning composition, Mr. Tambourine Man: Seven Poems of Bob Dylan to Australia for the premiere on September 11 of a version for chamber ensemble, commissioned by the Sydney Conservatorium of Music as part of their “100 Compositions for 100 Years” project celebrating the Conservatory’s centennial. This version was co-commissioned by the ensemble eighth blackbird who will present the North American premiere performances in Autumn 2010. Corigliano attends the premiere as part of a residency which also includes teaching, lectures and performances of his “Pied Piper Fantasy”. The reduced version takes all of the impact of the original work for orchestra and solo soprano and brings it into a more intimate 'Pierrot-plus' instrumentation: fl(pic).cl(ebcl)

Of the original, Corigliano stated:

John Corigliano © G. Schirmer
I had always heard, by reputation, of the high regard accorded the folk-ballad singer/songwriter Bob Dylan. But I was so engaged in developing my orchestral technique during the years when Dylan was heard by the rest of the world that I had never heard his songs. So I bought a collection of his texts, and found many of them to be every bit as beautiful and as immediate as I had heard-and surprisingly well-suited to my own musical language. I then contacted Jeff Rosen, his manager, who approached Bob Dylan with the idea of re-setting his poetry to my music.

I chose seven poems for what became a thirty-five minute cycle. A Prelude: Mr. Tambourine Man, in a fantastic and exuberant manner, precedes five searching and reflective monologues that form the core of the piece; and Epilogue: Forever Young makes a kind of folk-song benediction after the cycle's close. Dramatically, the inner five songs trace a journey of emotional and civic maturation, from the innocence of Clothes Line through the beginnings of awareness of a wider world (Blowin' in the Wind), through the political fury of Masters of War, to a premonition of an apocalyptic future (All Along the Watchtower), culminating in a vision of a victory of ideas (Chimes of Freedom). Musically, each of the five songs introduces an accompanimental motive that becomes the principal motive of the next. The descending scale introduced in Clothes Line resurfaces as the passacaglia which shapes Blowin' in the Wind. The echoing pulse-notes of that song harden into the hammered ostinato under Masters of War; the stringent chords of that song's finale explode into the raucous accompaniment under All Along the Watchtower; and that song's repeated figures dissolve into the bell-sounds of Chimes of Freedom.

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