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Thread: Persichetti: Parable for IX Band, op. 131

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    Senior Member science's Avatar
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    Default Persichetti: Parable for IX Band, op. 131

    Arpeggio made a post about this work in another thread that was so compelling that I thought this work deserves its own thread:

    Quote Originally Posted by arpeggio View Post
    The following is about Persichetti's Parable IX for Band, Op.121. It is from Simmons, Walter. Voices of Stone and Steel: The Music of William Schuman, Vincent Persichetti and Peter Mennin. Lanjam-Toronto-Plymouth, UK: Scarecrow Press, 2011, pp. 276-277. (Note: I could not scan the pages in so I had to type out the entry. Please forgive any typos.)

    "Persichetti's most ambitions. complex, and demanding work for winds is the ninth in his series of Parables. Lasting seventeen minutes, the single-movement work is approximately the same duration as the entire Symphony No. 6. Parable IX, Op. 121 was commissioned by the Drake University College of Fine Arts to mark the opening of the Fine Arts Center and was completed in 1972.

    Parable IX shares much of the same language as the Symphony No. 9, "Sinfonia: Janiculum," Op.113 (1970). After an introductory statement that sets forth some very dissonant textural gestures, the clarinets introduce a lengthy thematic idea that embraces all twelve tones, although there are some repetitions before all twelve are heard. This theme contains gestural ideas, as well as intervallic combinations, all of which serve as the source material for the entire work, while recurring throughout as recognizable unifying elements. Although structured as on continuous , through-composed entity, Morris (Donald A. Morris. He wrote his dissertation on the band works of Persichetti) reports the Persichetti's sketches indicates his own conceptual subdivisions of the work into five sections plus coda. As Parable IX proceeds, its thematic material pursues an abstract, developmental odyssey against a broad canvas of sonic textures (A lot of fancy words for unique sounds). As was true of the Ninth Symphony, the passages in faster tempos are the easiest to grasp and absorb, revealing the clearest connections to Persichetti's more familiar musical language. Percussion instruments play an important structural role; their use is varied and highly active. In the coda, Persichetti recalled much of the earlier material in simultaneous counterpoint--a technique that had served him as far back as the early 1950's.

    Works like the band Parable and the Ninth Symphony are quite challenging for those accustomed to more traditional musical styles. They demand attentive listening, as their structures are articulated with great concentration. Rather that serving as the foundation of the musical language, tonality is used in these works as a device for a specific purpose. Similarly, metrical rhythm and contrapuntal development, though never abandoned entirely, become part of a repertoire of techniques, along with a language of texture and gestures that many of Persichetti's compositional colleagues were exploring at the time. In such works the composer manipulates all of these elements and techniques to achieve varying levels of energy and activity, and varying density and transparency of texture, producing a dynamic but highly abstract narrative structure. Drama is represented grippingly within the music yet without any suggestion of personal autobiography; rather, in unfolds as an autonomous consequence of the inherent properties of the musical material itself. Persichetti's textures are characteristically lucid, so that the concentration of activity never becomes turgid or contested, as is often the case with music that attempts to pack too much into too short a time span. Unlike so much complex music of the 1960's and 1970's, Persichetti's conceptual clarity and his convincing sense of musicality motivate the serious listener to persevere. This is music first and foremost, not ideas translated stillborn into sound; while Parable IX may seem initially like a conceptual abstraction, with familiarity its natural sense of vigor and grace becomes increasingly apparent.

    The premier of Parable IX took place in Des Moines, Iowa , in April 1973. Don Marcouiller conducted the Drake University Symphonic Wind Ensemble."

    What frightens me is that although a normal human being may consider the above a lot of gobbledygook, I understood everything that Mr. Simmons stated. The apparent curse of a classical music education. It took my years to get the Ninth Symphony. By the time I was exposed to the Parable IX it was not quite a shock to me. I hope some of you find the above informative.

    I was unable to locate a YouTube of a live performance.

    I have several recordings in by library. One of my favorites is with the Illinois State University Wind Symphony:

    Has anyone else heard this work? What do you think of it? Any of your own favorite recordings to recommend?
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    Senior Member licorice stick's Avatar
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    I found a recording on YT with the North Texas Wind Symphony, a crack wind ensemble. Persichetti is one of my favorite postwar composers, and I consider his Sixth Symphony a masterpiece, but this Parable strays too far from clear melody for my liking. I have enjoyed some of his other symphonies, so I'll have to listen to the other Parables as well.

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    Senior Member arpeggio's Avatar
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    I am not familiar with all of this other Parables. The ones I am familiar with are similar to the one for band.

    All bassoon players know of the one for bassoon. It is very hard and I have spent years trying to learn it.

    I think I was at the premier of the second one for brass quintet in 1968 at a Persichetti Festival and the University of North Carolina Greensboro. If it was not the premier it was an early performance. It was with the New York Brass Quintet. This is were I met Persichetti. At first I did not care for the work. Over the years I have learned to like it. It is a difficult listen.

    If one does not care for the band one I think they will disappointed in the others. Still go ahead and give them a try. You might find some that will appeal to you.

    From the Walter Simmons. The Music of William Schuman, Vincent Persichetti, and Peter Mennin: Voices of Stone and SteelToronto. Scarecrow Press. 2011. p. 279 (sorry about any typos).

    "Most of the Parables are quite challenging musically and are thoroughly abstract in character. Those for monophonic instruments are essentially exercises in music for the players, rather than--considered realistically--rewarding aesthetic experiences for the listener. They are largely atonal, though not systematically so, but usually conclude having achieved some sense of tonal center. They are tailored meticulously to the technical and expressive qualities of the particular instrument, which they exploit fully, including some modest use of extended techniques."

    In defense of Persichetti, these works show that he is a very versatile composer who can compose in many styles. They do not appeal to everyone as a listener.

    Also the literature is full of works that are technical exercises for instruments but may not be very interesting listens. For example, one of the classic bassoon studies are the Ludwig Milde Fifty Concert Studies, Opus 26. These are essential for all bassoon players to learn. Challenging to play and master, but boring to listen to. After trying to play one of these monsters I crave four minutes and thirty-three seconds of silence.
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