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About this Piece

Composed: 1999

Length: 12 minutes

Orchestration: piccolo, 3 flutes, 3 oboes, English horn, 3 clarinets, bass clarinet, 2 bassoons, 2 contrabassoons, 6 horns, 3 trumpets, bass trumpet, 4 trombones, tuba, percussion, timpani, and strings

First Los Angeles Philharmonic performances (U.S. premiere)

Italian composer Alberto Colla has, within the past few years, established himself as one of the most prolific young composers of Europe. He is a composer of orchestral, chamber, solo, and choral music. Colla's work is characterized by brilliant orchestrations, a sophisticated integration of many styles and compositional techniques utilizing intervallic symbolism, quotation, and parody, and the use of materials of composers of the past to create an archaic or "nostalgic ambience." His music borrows equally from European sacred monodic music as well as Middle Eastern, Mesopotamian, and Indonesian sources (his Passacaglia del Leviatano, for instance, is based upon Iranian melodies interwoven with the song of the Megapetara novaeangelie whale).

Le rovine di Palmira (The Ruins of Palmyra), composed in 1999, is a lyrical, programmatic, multisectional one-movement work whose ancestral voice is the Rimsky-Korsakov of Scheherazade and more importantly his Symphony No. 2, Op. 9, Antar. Both composers have created symphonic poems based upon the story of Antar, an Arabian hermit who saves a gazelle from a bird of prey. The gazelle reveals herself to be a fairy queen and grants Antar the possession of vengeance, power, and love. Ultimately, the story ends with Antar's death.

Colla utilizes Arabic scales and rhythmic modes as the source materials for Le rovine di Palmira. (Palmyra is an ancient city of Syria on the north edge of the Syrian Desert.) He follows the practice of French composer Olivier Messiaen (1908-1992) of indicating in his score the Arabic scales and rhythmic modes he has adapted for this piece. Each of the seven sections is given a poetic phrase expressive of the musical narrative: nel deserto di Sham (In the Desert of Sham), il sogno di Antar (Antar's Dream), il dono della vendetta (The Gift of Vengeance), il dono del potera (The Gift of Power), ritorno a Palmira (Return to Palmyra), il dono dell'amore (The Gift of Love), and la morte (Death). Each section is distinguished from the others through contrasts in orchestration, rhythmic and melodic articulation, and return of motivic materials in a cyclic manner. In il dono della vendetta, Colla places a quotation from Rimsky-Korsakov's Antar in the horns, trombones, and violins; ritorno a Palmira recalls material from nel deserto di Sham, while il dono dell'amore brings back material from il dono del potero.

-- Steven Lacoste is the Los Angeles Philharmonic's Archivist.