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Peter Lieberson

Publisher: AMP

World’s Turning (1991)
Associated Music Publishers Inc
Sub Category
Large Orchestra
Year Composed
18 Minutes
Programme Note
Peter Lieberson World’s Turning (1991)
Composer Note:
World’s Turning is about the seasons and their changes. The idea for the piece came to me one afternoon as I was resting after work. It was late spring, and I was simply gazing out the window of my bedroom. The air was already quite warm for a Nova Scotia spring; there was a slight breeze. The late afternoon light was soft, but the colors of the sky and the new buds on the tree outside my window were vivid and luminous. A few birds were singing. There was a feeling of joy and sadness mixed together. It was some time (though it also may only have been a few seconds) before I commented on this moment to myself. Surely everyone has experienced this at some time or another! I was inspired then to explore those moments through the elements of each season. Somewhat like the Ozu films I had admired when I was in my early twenties, I wanted to evoke the energy and atmosphere of each season and the transition from one to another. [Yasujiro Ozu was a Japanese director among whose last, exquisite works, produced between 1949 and 1962, was a series of films titled Late Spring, Early Summer, Early Spring, Equinox Flower, Late Autumn, Early, Autumn, and An Autumn Afternoon.]

The piece opens quietly with Late Spring and slowly moves into the more active beginning of summer. Summer begins with a brief phrase of a waltz and quickly shifts into the sounds of activity: the buzzing of muted trumpets and stopped horns. Abruptly there is a quick orchestral climax, and the waltz tempo returns with an oboe solo followed by a horn solo. The orchestra is quickly engaged again in rhythmic music alternating accents of two and three. The climax of this section brings in a kind of dance music in 7/8, heralded by melodic minor thirds (G/B-flat) pulsating in all registers of the orchestra. As summer winds down, the strings take over as the principle voice. Fall then begins without pause for the string section alone, with harp accompaniment in the middle of the movement. There is a feeling of warmth and richness.

The principals in the next movement, Winter, are three trombones. The first trombone is the primary soloist and plays a clear, fluid solo. The second trombone and the bass trombone co-emerge with the first, often on the same note, but in an angry and abrupt way. So two moods coexist or co-emerge in Winter, clarity and anger. The trombone solos are framed by brief interludes for the winds and softly held notes in the strings. In the last solo for the trombones, the music intensifies as the entire brass section enters. A final quiet interlude— first for the horns, then for three flutes in their lowest register, accompanied by a trombone, and then by a bass clarinet— breathes the end of winter. Early Spring, the fifth and final section of the piece, is rhythmic but quiet, with climaxes that involve the full orchestra, but never in the sense of providing a finale. Rather the piece ends somewhat like the description I gave of my own momentary experience of spring.

— Peter Lieberson

[World's Turning]...makes beautiful use of the creating atmospheres, textures, sonorities to evoke any number of possible sensuous responses and imagined impressions.
San Francisco Chronicle,01/01/0001
...[World's Turning] is a well-conceived, fascinating, aural painting of nature's cycle....It is a piece certain to be played many times in concert halls.
The [San Mateo] Times,01/01/0001
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