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Timing: c. 17:00
Orchestration: piccolo, 2 flutes, 2 oboes, English horn, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, percussion (cymbals, tam-tam, triangle, xylophone), harp, celesta, and strings.
First Los Angeles Philharmonic performances: May, 2001.
Joaquín Rodrigo (1901-1999) and his wife came to America in 1970 to attend the premiere of his Concierto Madrigal for two guitars (by guitarists Pepe and Angel Romero and the L.A. Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl) and made an extended vacation of it. While seeing friends in Houston, they
visited what is now the Johnson Space Center, where NASA gave Rodrigo VIP treatment, introducing him to astronauts and letting him handle moon rocks that the general public would have been allowed only to look at: looking would have been useless for Rodrigo, since diphtheria had left him blind at age three.
When, a few years later, the Houston Symphony asked Rodrigo to compose something for the 1976 American bicentennial, he came up with A la busca de más allá, a symphonic poem inspired by the thought of space exploration. In his program notes for the 1978 Houston premiere, Rodrigo noted that the work had “no definite story or descriptive content,” but added that the long roll on suspended cymbal that opens and closes the work was meant “to evoke in the listener the sense of mystery associated with the far-off, the ‘beyond.’” He called the themes that the flute introduces at the beginning “melodic apparitions.” The first one owes its sense of mystery to being essentially a leap of a minor ninth – in a manner of speaking, it aims at an octave, the most basic of intervals, and lands a note high, giving a sense of something definite just out of reach, which is the essence of mystery.
Long droning basses and sparse orchestration suggest the vastness and emptiness of space. Much use is made of sounds that die away: the harp, xylophone and, most of all, the celesta, whose otherworldly chiming is to the “the beyond” (“Neptune, the Mystic” in Holst’s The Planets is the best-known case in point) what the flute is to birdcalls. Grand, sweeping, yearning melodic episodes give a sense of the search into that emptiness.
-- Lawyer and lutenist Howard Posner has also annotated programs for the Los Angeles Baroque Orchestra and the Coleman Chamber Concerts.