Liner Notes

NEOWISE

By Roger Zare

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Sarasota Orchestra performed Roger Zare's NEOWISE on April 12 - 14, 2024 with guest conductor Katharina Wincor at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall in Sarasota, Florida.


Program Notes

Praised for his “enviable grasp of orchestration” (The New York Times) and for writing music with “formal clarity and an alluringly mercurial surface,” Roger Zare is a native of Sarasota and an alumnus of the Sarasota Youth Orchestras. Drawing upon a wide range of inspirations, from math and science to literature and mythology, Zare’s colorful, energetic music has been performed around the world, and he has garnered an impressive number of awards, including the ASCAP Nissim Prize, three BMI Student Composer Awards, an ASCAP Morton Gould award, a New York Youth Symphony First Music Commission, the 2008 American Composers Orchestra Underwood Commission, a 2010 Charles Ives Scholarship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a Copland House Residency Award, the Grand Prize in the inaugural China-US Emerging Composers Competition, and many other honors. Zare received his DMA in 2012 from the University of Michigan, where he studied with Michael Daugherty, Paul Schoenfield, Bright Sheng, and Kristin Kuster. He also holds degrees from the Peabody Conservatory (M.M. '09) and the University of Southern California (B.M. '07), and his previous teachers include Christopher Theofanidis, Derek Bermel, David Smooke, Donald Crockett, Tamar Diesendruck, Fredrick Lesemann, and Morten Lauridsen. Zare is an assistant professor of music at Appalachian State University and previously taught composition at Illinois State University.

NEOWISE was commissioned by the Trinity Symphony Orchestra, directed by Dr. Joseph Kneer, with generous support from the Stieren Arts Enrichment Grant. As Zare describes the work,

“During the summer of 2020, a rare sight emerged in the night sky. Comet NEOWISE rounded the sun and spent weeks visible to the naked eye during July. Only discovered months earlier, NEOWISE became the most impressive comet to fly by our planet in decades. I have always been an avid follower of astronomy and remember vividly seeing comet Hale-Bopp in 1997, amazed by its sinewy shape and pale glow. Since then, there have not been any comets visible to the naked eye in the northern hemisphere until NEOWISE. The year 2020 was marred by the global COVID-19 pandemic. Many countries, including the United States, locked down to slow down the spread of this extremely contagious disease, disrupting the lives of countless people around the world. While humanity was unable to do so many things that had been taken for granted, nature put on a show.
“This piece portrays the journey of comet NEOWISE through the inner solar system from our viewpoint on Earth. As the comet very gradually gains speed falling towards the sun, the music begins distantly and mysteriously, with an undulating carpet of sound in the strings supporting a questioning clarinet solo. Low brass chords swell in and out of focus and gradually replace the woodwinds, leading the music to grow in speed and energy. The woodwinds sing a graceful and winding melody over a blanket of delicate strings and tambourine rhythms, continuing to build steam as the comet accelerates towards Earth. Rounding the sun, the comet's coma expands and the music blossoms, suddenly pulling back in speed and scope and returning to the vast openness where the music began. A solo bassoon imitates the original clarinet solo, and the brass chords turn into a luminous chorale that launches the music to a high velocity once again. A more massive climax punctuated by bells and resounding brass chords sees NEOWISE traverse our skies. As the comet speeds away from us, the mysterious texture from the opening returns a final time. The clarinet solo also returns, but now from offstage, distant echoes from an eventful close encounter with the Earth.”

Program notes by © Jennifer More 2024