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Symphony No. 1 (Of Rage and Remembrance)
December 14, 2011—The original manuscript of acclaimed composer John Corigliano’s
landmark Symphony No. 1 (Of Rage and Remembrance) has just been added to the collections of Northwestern University’s Music Library
, according to Music Library head D. J. Hoek. “Corigliano is one of the most prominent composers of the past three or four decades,” Hoek says, “and this particular symphony is probably his most important work, for reasons not only musical but also social and cultural.”
First performed in 1990 by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra
under Daniel Barenboim, the composition was inspired by Corigliano’s encounter with the AIDS Memorial Quilt in the late 1980s. The sight of several thousand fabric panels, “each designed and constructed by his or her loved ones....made me want to memorialize in music those I have lost, and reflect on those I am losing,” Corigliano later wrote. His symphony, which Hoek says represents “classical music’s first significant response to the AIDS crisis,” went on to win the Grawemeyer Award for Composition (1990), the Grammy for Best Orchestral Performance and for Best New Composition (1991), and the Grammy for Best Classical Album (1996).
“One of the reasons we collect music manuscripts,” Hoek says, “is that they can give us hints of what the composer was thinking about, how small ideas became larger ideas that define the work. These aren’t apparent in the published version of the score, and they help students and scholars understand how this music was created.” In this case, he says, unusual elements of the manuscript visually suggest the quilt that inspired it. “For instance, you can see where Corigliano quotes another composer’s music by literally taping in a paper segment of the other score, like a piece of patchwork, as a way of honoring a pianist friend lost to AIDS. In the published score, you don’t see just how literal and direct Corigliano was being.”
Corigliano’s works have been performed and recorded by many of the world’s most prominent orchestras, soloists, and chamber musicians. His opera The Ghosts of Versailles was commissioned by the Metropolitan Opera for its 100th anniversary, and he composed dramatic scores for the films Altered States, Revolution, and The Red Violin.
In the spring of 2010, Corigliano came to Chicago and Northwestern for the Bienen School of Music’s
“John Corigliano Festival
,” featuring performances of his works by the school’s band, choral, orchestra, and opera programs. “The festival was a particularly exciting way to bring the work of a leading contemporary composer to life for our students and faculty,” says Toni-Marie Montgomery, the Music School’s dean. “This acquisition gives us an opportunity to work with the Music Library on engaging both artists and scholars in further performance and discussion of Corigliano’s work.”
The manuscript’s acquisition was made possible by a generous bequest from the estate of Jeffrey Wasson with additional support from the Library Board of Governors Annual Fund. Wasson, an Evanston native who died in 2010, earned his bachelor’s, master’s, and PhD degrees from the Bienen School of Music and had also served on its faculty.