Symphony No. 2 "The Great Expanse" -- Sunny Knable (b. 1983)
I. ...of dark (0:04-9:15)
II. ...of light (9:32-19:20)
The California Youth Symphony performs Sunny Knable's Symphony No. 2 "The Great Expanse", conducted by Maestro Leo Eylar. Recorded live at the San Mateo Performance Center in San Mateo, CA on Sunday, December 20, 2016.
PROGRAM NOTES BY SUNNY KNABLE:
Symphony No. 2 "The Great Expanse", is a programatic orchestral work in two movements commissioned by the California Youth Symphony in 2016. In broadest terms, it was composed on the subject of the past (...of dark) and the future (...of light).
When Maestro Leo Eylar approached me about writing a new work, I was thrilled but also intimidated. I've written a few orchestral works, but this is my first large commission for one. So, I mulled it over for quite a long time, and finally settled on the concept of past vs. future for a few reasons: 1) Leo was my former professor of composition, who also conducted the premiere of my Symphony No. 1 in 2005, and this second symphony provides a kind of bookend to that fledgling work; 2) I was brought up in California, and though I've lived in New York City for 10 years now, I still feel a strong pull towards the Golden State -- so what more appropriate orchestra to play my music than CYS?; 3) The timing of this commission coincides with huge life changes for me -- the completion of my PhD at Stony Brook University (this is my thesis!), my entry into the academic world of adjunct teaching at Queens College, and my marriage to Swiss-French vocalist Valentine Biollay, all of which led me to take stock of where I've been and where I am going personally and artistically.
So how is all this translated into music? Well, I have good reasons for every note of this piece, but I don't want to give away the story. Suffice it to say that you, the listener, could listen for leitmotivs (short themes which enter and come back in various ways) and see how those interact, and ponder what they might mean, or you can just sit back and take it all in. Either way, this piece would not have been possible with Leo Eylar, and all the hard work and dedication of the young but oh-so-talented musicians of the California Youth Symphony. I got a chance to work with them personally during their August camp, and I came away energized by their exuberance and joy for music. Many sincere thanks to them. This is challenging music for the performers, conductor and perhaps even the audience, but I hope that you will enjoy it, as I have enjoyed writing it for this group.
As for the title, it in reference to my first instrument, the piano (what a great expanse it has!), as well as lofty ideas about the expanse of music, of life, of time and of space. But perhaps a quote sums it up best from the well-loved book, "The Secret Garden" by Frances Burnett. Here is an excerpt:
“The carriage lamps shed a yellow light on a rough looking road which seemed to be cut through bushes and low growing things which ended in the great expanse of dark apparently spread out before them."
What it leads to, we will find out in the end.