May 13 2011
Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra
Manfred Honeck, conductor
Stroke was commissioned by the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and is dedicated to my younger brother George, who suffered a major stroke in 2008 at the age of sixty that left his body paralyzed on his entire left side.
The horrific journey of the aftermath of a serious stroke consists of many different emotional stages: crying, anger, anxiety and depression. The huge adjustment of the mind and the DNA of the body requires a strong resilience of emotion and a large amount of mental discipline to adapt to a body that can no longer do the things it did before. The positive side of this experience (and alternate meaning of the word "stroke") is one of occasional but welcomed rests of peace and deep love that become more pronounced as the stroke victim adjusts to his new reality.
I tried to depict these extreme emotions through the musical journey of my 17-minute piece. Inside a dramatic and often loud steady beat (of the heart) surrounded by waves of fast notes (which veer between "anxious" and "joyful"), there are five slower (and "softer") solos for horn, bassoon, violin, clarinet and trumpet where more "peaceful" surroundings come forward.
Stroke is a piece concerned with many emotions, one that hopefully offers a quiet "hope" at the end. With a stroke, it is hard to tell which way it will go.