TLV 2.0

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!

Still can’t believe it…

On 25 April 2009, Andrew Mogrelia conducted the SFCM Orchestra in the world premiere performance of my orchestral work, The Long Valley. As they performed it, I nervously stood in the back of the concert hall and relished in the experience. It is not everyday that a composer receives a live performance of her/his orchestral composition, so I savored every second of this unique experience.

I consider The Long Valley to be my first orchestral piece, even though, technically, I have written two others, in addition to orchestrating piano works by Brahms, Debussy, etc. for orchestration classes. Yet, The Long Valley is a benchmark composition for me in terms of what it does artistically within an orchestral framework. I think of my other orchestral pieces as student compositions fulfilling educational demands, rather than artistic ones.

The rehearsal process began only two weeks ahead of the concert. Maestro Mogrelia asked me to run a woodwind sectional, which was scary and fun! A couple days later, the orchestra read through the piece, and did so very well. Two more short rehearsals ensued, and then it was time for the performance. I was impressed by how well the orchestra did, despite a limited amount of rehearsal time.

As the piece came alive throughout this process, I began to understand that some of the orchestration is flawed, and needs some tweaking and attention to detail. For instance, as the brass make their way into the texture in the middle of the piece, the woodwinds are drowned out. Also, as the piece leads to the climax, the texture thickens too soon, and dulls the primary role of the trumpets and horns. Further, when the original theme comes back toward the end, the orchestration lacks the gentle tenderness I was hoping to achieve.

I’ve already begun the task of editing the orchestration, and plan to make it more presentable to professional orchestras by reducing the forces a bit. I hope to enter it into several competitions, so we’ll see how that goes.

All in all, I am overwhelmingly grateful and honored to have been selected for this performance, and I still can’t believe it happened. Luckily, I have proof in the form of a recording, which is available below for your listening pleasure. Be sure to use a good pair of headphones if your computer speakers aren’t so great.

Thank you Andrew Mogrelia, the SFCM Orchestra, Jim Highsmith & Robert Marberger, and the entire SFCM community for this great opportunity. And thank you David Conte for guiding me along from 2003 ’til now, and my parents for their support and encouragement.

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The Long Valley by Jeffrey Parola
San Francisco Conservatory Orchestra
Andrew Mogrelia, conductor

University of Oregon

Beall Hall - University of OregonAfter a lengthy, grueling process of applications, interviews, and a great deal of discernment, as of today I have decided that I will be pursuing doctoral studies at the University of Oregon School of Music. I am very excited to begin this new chapter of my life, and cannot wait to engage myself in the UO community.

My composition teachers will include David Crumb and Robert Kyr, and I will also be studying choral conducting with Sharon Paul. There are details surrounding my role beyond student activity at UO, and I will share them here as soon as signatures are penned.

The University of Oregon has an excellent comprehensive music program, housed in newly renovated facilities. To learn more about the school, please visit this link: University of Oregon – School of Music and Dance.