The idea of commemorating the distinguished American artist, Charles E. Burchfield, was suggested to me by Lawrence A. Fleischman of the Kennedy Galleries in New York, resulting in a commission by the Burchfield Foundation for such a work. Charles E. Burchfield was born April 9, 1893 in Ashtabula Harbor, Ohio, and died January 10, 1967 in West Seneca, New York. Burchfield’s “nature” paintings, celebrating the seasons, with their fantasy and movement are what attracted me musically. His work has been described as “visual music” – and he himself was sensitive to specific musical influences, and referred to them. Sibelius was a favorite, and the “Northwind” pervades much of Burchfield’s paintings. He has a deep spirited affinity with nature, and this religiosity is reflected in the brooding mystery of his landscapes. My musical celebration is intended to evoke what Burchfield’s paintings are about, with their vibrant lights and shadows, and constant motion and dancing rhythm’s. The work is an extended lyrical Paean, divided in seven formalized movements.
I. Prologue – Passacaglia on Burchfield’s signature, C.E.B., over which are contrasting variants and musical influences containing germinal motifs and materials for the other movements, austere and quiet.
II. Spring – Ballad – outgoing and exuberant.
III. Brookside Music – Interlude – descriptive of the title and the painting – quiet and “babbling” – but also mysterious.
IV. Summer – Serenade – hot, humid, shimmering and pulsating.
V. Autumn – Scherzo – rhythmic, propulsive, fading at the end to the sound of rustling leaves.
VI. Winter – Reverie – elegiac, sustained stillness.
VII. The Four Seasons – Fantasy – a musical collage, reflecting Burchfield’s famous painting containing all the elements – with its Gothic like Cathedral effect framing the sounds of storms, chorales, and a final peroration of the opening Passacaglia Prologue.
“Latin” percussion is used throughout the work, i.e. maracas, gourd, claves, etc., transforming nature sounds, crickets, cicadas, katydids, etc. into rhythmic and ostinato patterns, the texture is basically consonant and pastoral throughout until the final drama of the our Seasons Fantasy.
The title “Burchfield Gallery” along with its obvious relevance to the subject matter, also continues my other “Galleries” – Stephen Foster Gallery, Vivaldi Gallery, Rhythm Gallery, and Dance Gallery.
For triple woodwinds, four horns, three trumpets, three trombones, tuba, timpani, three percussions, harp, piano and strings. It was composed in 1978/79, and completed on September 6, 1979.