Commissioned by the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra; Krzysztof Urbanski, conductor
Beethoven's Symphony No. 1 is famous for its ambiguous beginning, which appears to lead the listener away from the home key of C-major, rather than stating it emphatically as was the custom. I hear those first twelve bars not as a diversion but as a spiral, like a hawk wheeling towards an unsuspecting rabbit, or the tightening coil of a mollusk's shell — the spire — as it rises, twisting, to a point. In Beethoven's case, the point of the spire is C-major, which winds up all the more strongly focused, having been approached, through a series of revolutions, from all sides. When Krzysztof Urbanski and the Indianapolis Symphony asked me to create an orchestral tribute for Beethoven's 250th, I imagined a projection of this tapering form, which announces not just the beginning of the First Symphony but the beginning of Beethoven's entire symphonic output. My work, Spire, is loosely governed the same harmonic principles but begins much further afield. Like a shell, I built it from the pinnacle outwards so that, when the work is performed with Symphony No. 1 — as it will be in these concerts — Beethoven's ingenious opening still forms the crown of the structure, and C-major its apex.
— Nathaniel Stookey