Památník: "Memorial" for Wind Ensemble (2018)
Instrumentation: full band (picc., 2 fl., 2 ob., 3 cl., b.cl., bsn., 2 a.sx., 1 t.sx., 1 b.sx., 3 tpt., 4 hn., 2 tbn., 1 b.tbn., euph., tba., timp., 5 perc.)
Duration: c. 6' 30"
First Performance: May 3, 2018, Abbott Concert Hall, Univ. of Wisconsin-River Falls, UWRF Symphony Band, Dr. Kristin Tjornehoj (conducting)
Program Note: For many years, I have felt a strong connection to my Czech heritage on my father’s side of the family. Whether it manifests itself in music, literature, visual art, folk tradition, or (last but not least) food, the culture and history of the Czech people has resonated with me ever since I learned about my great-great-grandfather and his emigration from Bohemia in 1891. Because of this background and interest in history, I was aware that the year 2018 was a significant one for the Czech people: 100 years since independence from Austria, 50 years since Prague Spring, and 25 years since the founding of the Republic. I wanted to, in hopefully a significant but unassuming way, bring attention to this concurrence of anniversaries by composing a piece to commemorate these events and their significance to world history. Therefore, I was overjoyed when the University of Wisconsin-River Falls generously agreed to commission a piece to be premiered in conjunction with the Czech-Slovak 100/50/25 initiatives taking place throughout Midwestern America in 2018.
The resulting composition is entitled Památník (translated as “memorial” or “monument” in Czech), which truly describes my artistic intention for the work. The piece begins with a strong low brass motif (using the first four notes of the ancient Czech chorale Svatý Václave) which builds rapidly until a plaintively expressive tuba solo introduces the main theme of the work. After being passed to a solo euphonium, the texture expands until a syncopated brass and percussion interlude leads to a flowing transition of winds and xylophone, both reusing and foreshadowing motivic material. As the section gains momentum, a solo oboe introduces the middle section’s jaunty main theme, a variant of the Czech furiant, which is a fiery folk dance known for its feeling of alternation between duple and triple meter. While the tune is original, it toys with strains of the Czech folksong Sedlák, sedlák, sedlák and Smetana’s Furiant from The Bartered Bride. Then, as tension and anxiety build, driving eighth-note rhythms in the woodwinds carry remnants of the furiant theme into the recapitulation, with the trumpet restating the beginning of the main theme. The underlying energy does not lessen, however, and gradually the emotion builds to a high, powerful climax, from which point the music cascades into the Czech national anthem, Kde domov můj. As the woodwinds’ flurrying accompaniment mixes with what could be the bells of Prague pealing triumphantly, the main theme bursts forth one final time in counterpoint with the anthem. The two push forward together until one last nod to the furiant carries the piece home to a jubilant conclusion.