Chaconne and Burlesque

Chaconne and Burlesque was commissioned by the Utica Symphony Orchestra. Composed in 1959-60, it received its world premiere in May, 1960 by the Utica Symphony, conducted by the composer, who was selected by Howard Hanson, at the request of the orchestra, for this unusual opportunity for a young composer.

Chaconne and Burlesque presents two movements of contrasting character. The first is slow and serious; the second is fast and humorous, but with occasional touches of gravity. The Chaconne is built, of course, on a recurring harmonic pattern, in this case eight bars long. Gradually more freedom is allowed the pattern as it repeats itself and as the music around it changes. The repetitions become increasingly more complex until a climax is reached, after which the music works its way to a peaceful conclusion.

The Burlesque abruptly breaks in and states its somewhat jaunty main theme, followed by a brief development. This leads into a lyrical second subject, sung by the clarinet over string and muted brass accompaniment. After hints of the main theme, a third section appears, quite grave, which seemingly threatens to turn an otherwise pleasant—if not downright humorous—piece into a serious expostulation, until the percussion section pricks that balloon and sets the piece again on its jaunty way. Unison horns outlining the diminished triad add a measure of excitement to the ending.

Program Notes by Samuel Jones