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AVSHALOMOV - Siege (1992) for symphony orchestra EMA 1122

€ 38,10


Classical, Contemporary, Modern (early), Neo romantic
ZIP (2 PDF´s): 1 full score, 1 parts
United States

YouTube (MIDI file)


Name   David Avshalomov
Country  United States
Date of birth  1946-05-06
Title  Siege
Form  Tone Poem
Instrumentation  Symphony orchestra
Ensemble  Orchestra
Detailed instrumentation  2232-4331-1301-stro
2 Flutes, 2 Oboes, 2 Clarinets in Bb, Bass  clarinet in Bb, 2 Bassoons,
4 Horns, in F, 3 Trumpets in Bb, 2 Tenor trombones, Bass trombone, Tuba,
Timpani, 3 Percussion*, Piano,
Violins I & II, Violas, Celli, Contrabasses (with extended C string)
(*Glockenspiel, Xylophone, Marimba, Tubular bells, 
Snare drum, Bass drum, Suspended cymbal, Tamtam)
Year (completed)  1999
Exact date and place (completed)  1999, Seattle, WA
Duration   08'30''
Genre  Classical, Contemporary, Modern (early), Neo romantic
Total pages  74
Level  Advanced
Note by the composer

This is a lyrical, dark, moody, dramatic work, modern-tonal in style (influenced by
Shostakovitch, Mahler, and Bartok), using the full resources of the orchestra. It was
originally conceived as pure music, not program music, but listeners found that it
immediately evoked images, places, action. I decided that the succession of moods, from slow tension through confrontation and release, suggested the siege of a medieval fortress; hence the title.

The grim, stolid music of the slow gloomy opening evokes the Fortress in the pre-dawn
mist and watch-fire smoke. A simple rising gloomy modal melody builds up
contrapuntally from the lowest voices through the full orchestra, growing twice to abrupt deceptive cadences. Immediately, muted trumpet and then oboes establish a repeated dotted rhythm, over echoes of the opening Fortress theme in solo tuba, then bassoon, and then, increasingly chopped up into rhythmic phrases, in full strings.

The tempo quickens, and woodwinds-and-horns cluster-chords thicken the persistent
rhythm to push us into an episode of muscular pounding brass music that evokes the
saber-rattling and posturing threats of the attacking forces before the gates. Over the
dotted rhythm in trumpets, solo trombone introduces the second theme (the Full
Challenge), which starts with a key four-note expanding motive, and continues
aggressively downward, reinforced by horns. Taking this up, the brass forces pile up over the insistent rhythm, related motives are spat out, tension builds, the snare drum rattles boastfully, and a climax is reached. The full challenge has been given.

Like an echo in stone halls, the dotted-rhythm accompaniment pattern continues in quiet strings, over which successive woodwinds (bassoon, clarinets, flutes) outline and extend a plaintive descending melody (related to the Challenge theme), suggesting the
frightened lone night watch on the tower walls. The flutes trail off in anxiety, and the
string rhythm slows, then stops.

The next section suggests the covert undermining of the walls. A series of quiet
sustained midrange dissonant tone clusters accumulate (the individual instrument entries outlining the challenge motive), starting in woodwinds, then adding strings, further overlaid with brass, massing to a thick tone cluster of foreboding and each layer then suddenly swelling in volume and cutting off. The gates have been breached!

Immediately the final attack is mounted. The tension is compounded by successive
loud piled-up variants of the Challenge motive fractured across the choirs of the orchestra (and from the top through the bottom octaves), building a dissonant repeated harmony juggled by three offset rhythmic and harmonic groups. Over this menacingly pulsing background, winds and trumpets nastily restate the Full Challenge theme harmonized in tritones, and the whole assault machinery grinds to a halt on a series of truly ugly full orchestral chords, hammered out and punctuated by a huge tamtam and cymbal smash. The defending forces have made a last stand.

Suddenly, in reply, solo timpani, piano, and chimes hammer out the Challenge motive,
and the brass take it up in augmentation, all landing on an astonishing, vainglorious Bb
major chord in full orchestra, scored Wagner/Ring style. Under it, repeated Challenge
motives in low brass and timpani establish the attacker’s victory; then this outburst
settles and yields to quiet sustained octaves in woodwinds.

Out of this cold emptiness the opening Fortress music returns twice (again in
counterpoint, but now without its strong cadences), in haunting muted strings, then in
pale woodwinds over string harmonics, evoking the vanquished fortress and the heaps
of the dead. Over gentle echoes of the dotted rhythm, the solo oboe plays a quiet
lament, suspending a final high note in the air. Under it, the low instruments try to start the Fortress melody two last times, yielding to a sustained pedal tone over which the orchestra places four inconclusive chords echoing the opening cadences, then settles on a soft, bitter final chord of defeat.

This tone poem grew out of a sketch I wrote as a senior at Harvard College in 1967. The sketch was first read through by members of the Harvard-Radcliffe Orchestra under my baton. I completed and the work the next year, while studying orchestral conducting at the University of Washington. There I was encouraged by Walter Welke to transcribe it for symphonic winds, and I conducted the successful premiere of that version with his enterprising Wind Sinfonietta. While serving in the USAF Band in D.C. in 1969, I revised the band version, and they played it at a reading session for new works led by Col. Arnald Gabriel. In 1992 I further revised the orchestra version without changing the thematic materials or the overall form (A B B/development A’).

Santa Monica, 1999