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Peter Lieberson

Publisher: AMP

Ah (2002)
Associated Music Publishers Inc
Sub Category
Large Orchestra
Year Composed
18 Minutes
Programme Note
Composer Note:
Ah in Buddhism is the seed syllable of speech and hence, music. I chose the title not to be esoteric but because the word Ah is descriptive, in a way, of the piece itself. In two parts, the piece last between 17 and 18 minutes. It unfolds slowly and somewhat ritualistically in the first part. The second part is faster and more dance-like, sometimes like laughter, but it also has expansive moments. If you say the word “Ah,” it evokes a feeling of spaciousness and expansiveness that I think characterizes the very ending of the piece.

Generally speaking, the orchestra is quite sparingly used in its full force, more often employing, especially in Part II, a dialogue between families of instruments. For example, I wanted to be able to orchestrate lines and chords for discrete families of winds or brass such as three oboes and English horn, or three bassoons, or four trumpets. In part, that is the reason for the large wind and brass sections. The other and more significant reason is that Ah is very much about developing a whole work out of a single line and a few melodic motives that reappear in various guises and orchestral colors throughout the piece. Harmony and the spacing of chords also play an important role in Ah, and the large orchestra afforded me the richness of sonority I needed.

Ah is dedicated to my friend Oliver Knussen in honor of his 50th birthday, and to Tom Morris and The Cleveland Orchestra.

— Peter Lieberson

AH begins with a doleful, wide-leaping motive that is transformed through lyrical and epic means. Spacious textures warmed by lyrical shadowings give way to monumental climaxes. Lieberson's grasp of instrumental sonority is so sure that he can shift colors with kaleidoscopic ease. As Lieberson takes his narrative through intimate and majestic regions, the nobility of the artistic concept becomes more vividly apparent. Knussen and the orchestra were superb champions of the new score.
Donald Rosenberg, Cleveland Plain Dealer,01/01/0001
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