Tenafly High School Philharmonic (Jim Millar, music director)
Adam Glaser, guest conductor
May 17, 2018
World Premiere

Commissioned by the Tenafly Education Foundation
Copyright 2018 Adam Glaser

Composer’s Note:
Among the many topics I enjoy discussing over lunch with my friend and colleague, Jim Millar, the Brahms symphonies are among the most popular. We both happen to share a particular fondness for the final movement of the Fourth Symphony, which takes the form of an orchestral passacaglia. When accepting Jim’s commission to compose a new work for his highly advanced string orchestra in Tenafly, New Jersey, it was clear to me that the passacaglia would have to be the guiding framework.

Originating in early-17th century Spain, the passacaglia is “a continuous variation based on a clearly distinguishable ostinato that normally appears in the bass but that may occasionally be transferred to an upper voice” (Harvard Dictionary of Music). True to the form’s origins, the Brahms passacaglia is set in a triple meter, with an 8-note ground bass cast 30 consecutive times in strict 8-bar format before yielding to a rousing Coda. While I also begin with the 8-note / 8-bar format, and ultimately cast a few of the variations in triple meter, I have taken some liberties with the concept, exploring a few other keys, tempi and meters. The 8-note ground bass might be stated over 8 bars, compressed into 4 bars, spread over 16 bars, and even fragmented or twisted into other material.

As a tribute to the orchestra’s hometown, I’ve create two musical “signatures” inspired by the town of Tenafly. Like the passacaglia, the town of Tenafly also has its origins in the 17th century. Back in 1688, Dutch settlers came up with the name ''Tiene Vly'’ which means “ten swamps.” The “ground bass” is an 8- note theme that launches with an ascending 10th, an interval that comes to play an important role throughout the work. I also turned to the town's postal zip code for a bit of inspiration, translating 07670 into scale degrees, treating the “wildcard” zero as the 8th scale degree (the top of the octave). The net result: a theme based on the pitches/scale degrees 8-7-6-7-8.

Contact: Adam Glaser