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Composed: 2019

Length: c. 12 minutes

Orchestration: flute (=piccolo), oboe, clarinet (=E-flat clarinet), bassoon, horn, trumpet, timpani, and strings

About this Piece

The daughter of a musician and a theater artist, Jessie Montgomery grew up in the artistic and social ferment of Manhattan’s Lower East Side in the 1980s. From that environment, her multifaceted career of performance (violin), composition, teaching, and cultural advocacy evolved both naturally and deliberately. She has studied at Juilliard, New York University, and Princeton, and has been affiliated with the Sphinx Organization (which supports young African American and Latino string musicians) since 1999. She is currently composer-in-residence with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and her works have been commissioned and performed by a wide range of ensembles and institutions, including the New York Philharmonic, the New World Symphony, the National Symphony Orchestra, Imani Winds, the Catalyst Quartet, and Carnegie Hall. 

Written in 2019 on a commission from the Orpheus and Saint Paul chamber orchestras, Shift, Change, Turn was inspired by another project for Orpheus, an arrangement of Tchaikovsky’s piano suite The Seasons. Her work was, Montgomery says, “my opportunity to contribute to the tradition of writing a piece based on the seasons, as change and rotation is something that we all experience as humans. This piece is a musical exploration of both the external and internal seasons which at times seem to be changing along the same axis.” 

Unlike the 12 monthly vignettes of Tchaikovsky’s suite (or Vivaldi’s famous Four Seasons violin concertos), Montgomery’s piece does not explicitly evoke seasonal climatic or cultural events. The idea of cyclical rotation expressed in the title seems more relevant to both the structure and the spirit of the composition than descriptive allusions. There is a very earthy and almost ritual quality to the music, however, particularly in the framing sections anchored in the rich resonance of open string drones, as well as intimations of wind, rain, and human interventions. —John Henken