According to Franz Niemetschek, the author of Mozart’s first full-length biography, “one seldom finds in his scores improved or erased passages.” Part of Mozart’s astonishing genius was his ability to fully preconceive the details of his compositions before pressing a pen to manuscript paper.
I wish my brain, eyes, and ears were able to accurately predict sound as I commit notes to paper. Unfortunately, I am not like Mozart, and can only approximate the result. As soon as I finish the first draft of a composition, only one step is complete. The score is then destined to endure several stages of editing and refinement, especially after hearing it for the first time.
The Long Valley underwent this process before and after its April premiere. By the time it was submitted to the Highsmith competition, it had already been edited and re-edited. As soon as it won, I revised several sections before submitting the final performing score to Maestro Andrew Mogrelia. Then after the first rehearsal, I realized that dynamics and articulations in several spots did not work, so I asked for many adjustments to be made for the sake of balance and clarity.
Still, the end-result was not as satisfying as I had hoped, and figured that I would have to re-orchestrate some sections of music. Maestro Mogrelia also recommended that I reduce the instrumentation a bit, since most professional organizations might steer clear of the piece because it exceeds standard large orchestral instrumentation, which is expensive to put together.
Last week, I spent a great deal of time and energy on all of the above considerations, and ended up with a new and improved The Long Valley. The new instrumentation is as follows: 1 piccolo, 2 flutes, 3 oboes (3rd doubles english horn), 3 clarinets (3rd doubles bass clarinet), 3 bassoons (3rd doubles contrabassoon), 4 horns, 4 trumpets, 3 trombones, 1 tuba, timpani, 3 percussion players (bass drum, crotales, glockenspiel, marimba, suspended cymbal, tambourine, tam-tam, triangle, vibraphone), harp, piano, and strings.
While the orchestra is still quite large, I reduced instrumental forces significantly by removing 1 flute, 1 oboe, 1 clarinet, 1 bassoon, 1 percussion player, and celesta. I also reduced viola and cello divisi from 8 to 6, and double bass divisi from 4 to 2.
I’m hoping this second edition of The Long Valley will be read/performed in the near future. I submitted the work for consideration by the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, as they will be reading new works this July in Denver. I also submitted the original draft of The Long Valley some months ago to the Minnesota Orchestra to be considered for a reading in the fall, which, if I am selected for the reading, will feature the newly edited score.
Even though I feel confident about the latest edition of the piece, I’m sure I will continue to edit and re-edit, refine and re-refine it. Though I will never have, or even come close to, the gift of Mozart’s genius, I feel fortunate and blessed to have the knowledge and skill to be able to write at all. All of this editing keeps me an honest and grateful composer.
Next up: I will be writing about my latest work for violin and piano, a work intended to serve as my heartfelt musical farewell to San Francisco. Check back soon!