RTC-68: 1987 Shades of Autumn

Commission:
Length: 14 min.
Completion: 9 September – 26 October 1987, The MacDowell Colony, Peterborough, New Hampshire.
Premiere: 1990-09-21/22, Edmonton Symphony Orch., Uri Meyer (cond.)
Other: 1995-09-15/16, WSO, Bramwell Tovey (cond.) [see review]
Publication: CMC

Shades of Autumn is subtitled “An Elegy in Three Parts” for large orchestra.
The work is in three sections, played with a break.

I. Allegro, quasi fanfare – Andante espressive (5:50)
II. Allegretto scherzoso (multiples queries) (3:15)
III. Andantino, quasi recitative – Allegrissimo pesante (4:55)

Large orchestra:

Woodwinds: 1-2-2-1-1-2-1-2-1
Brass: 4 – 3 – 3 – 1
Timpani and 3 percussion players
Piano, Celeste, Harp,
Strings


“Shades of Autumn was written in September-October 1987 when the composer was a resident at the MacDowell Colony in New Hampshire, and premiered by the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Uri Meyer, in September 1990. Its three movements are meant to reflect various autumnal aspects and shades of meaning of the fall season. Technically and stylistically the work is both simple and complex, traditional and unconventional, tonal and atonal, revealing the composer’s eclectic mode of musical thinking.

The first movement begins rather darkly with a fanfare for full brass, leading into a longer, slow section for solo woodwinds, tuned percussion and strings. The second movement – a Scherzo and Trio – follows the classical format but is enigmatic and ironic in intent. This is evident in its main section for very high and very low wind instruments and the varied number of measures of rest (repeated ostinato figures on a background of silences!). As a contrast, the Trio section features the English Horn against sustained string harmonics and percussion in the middle register. The recitative-like opening of the last movement alternates a solo horn with overlapping phrases of the harp and celesta and shimmering divided strings. This leads into the vigorous final section (a harvest festivity) which concludes with a reference to the opening fanfare.”

R.T.

Review:

Harris, Neil. Review: “Season kicks off splendidly,” Winnipeg Free Press, Sunday, 17 September 1995.

“Winnipeg composers Robert Turner must grow weary of being referred to as the grand old man of Winnipeg music, especially when his skill and creative ideas are still so youthful. His Shades of Autumn is filled with his eclectic artistry, thousands of adroit ideas, sly wit (in the second movement) and total mastery of orchestration. Only those who wanted a more subjective, impressionistic picture of Autumn could be disappointed in this captivating work. It was played in honour of the composer’s 75th birthday and he was present to accept the plaudits of both the audience and the orchestra.”