Chasing Light...

For orchestra
fl(pic)-2perc(I: crot, xyl, vib, mar, tri (lg), sus cym (lg), 2 stainless steel mixing bowls (Tuvolo brand), tam-t, 4 tom-t, 20"x20" tom (lg), clav, 2 crystal glasses (amplified) - II: vib, mar, tub bells, 3 brake d, tri (lg), sus cym (lg), concert s.d, b.d, two crystal glasses (amplified))-hp.pno(amplified)-str-brass quintet (off-stage) - SATB chorus, 7 hand-bells, solo soprano (drawn from the chorus), 3 maracas (played by tenors), 3 tamb (played by tenors)
Major support is also provided by the National Endowment for the Arts, with additional funding from The Aaron Copland Fund for Music, Francis Goelet Charitable Lead Trusts and The Amphion Foundation. The Reno Chamber Orchestra's performance of Chasing Light...; was made possible in part by a generous gift from Sue and Dieter von Hennig. A Ford Made in America Commission, supported by: The Made in America Consortium, Ford Motor Company Fund, League of American Orchestras, and Meet The Composer, Inc.
September, 20th 2008
Nightingale Concert Hall, Reno, NV
Reno Chamber Orchestra Theodore Kucher - Music Director and Conductor
Schott Helicon
  • Program Notes

    Joseph Schwantner has been chosen as the composer for the second round of the Ford Made in America program, the nation’s largest cocommissioning consortium of orchestras, which provides regional orchestras the opportunity to perform seminal works by contemporary American composers.

    Chasing Light … is based on and inspired by a poem written by Joseph Schwantner. Explaining his sources, Schwantner comments: ‘Chasing Light ... draws its spirit, energy and inspiration from the celebration of vibrant colours and light that penetrate the morning mist as it wafts through the trees in the high New England hills. Like a delicate dance, those images intersected with a brief original poem that helped fire my musical imagination’.

  • Movements

    I Sunrise Ignites Daybreak's Veil (Con forza, feroce con bravura)
    II Calliope's Rainbowed Song (lontano)
    III A Kaleidoscope Blooms (lacrimosa)
    IV Morning's Embrace Confronts the Dawn (lontano...leggiero)


  • David Denton (David's Review Corner, October 2011)

    Joseph Schwantner names George Crumb, Olivier Messiaen and Claude Debussy among those who have most influenced his music. That is a pretty wide spectrum and could well frighten off those of a conservative musical nature, but I urge you to hear the disc before you make any presumptions. Born in the United States in 1943, he is among those who cite their Pulitzer Prize as a testimony to their place in today’s artistic world. All three works here recorded would also confirm his ability to create scores that make a deep impact, at times using a rhythmic sledgehammer to drive home his point. The Percussion Concerto completed in 1994 is in three movements and contains a massive improvised cadenza that takes up most of the finale. The central Misterioso takes us into a dark and solemn elegy. It is here performed, with considerable brilliance and dexterity, by Christopher Lamb who gave the first performance with the New York Philharmonic as part of the orchestra’s 150th anniversary. Morning’s Embrace was commissioned by the National Symphony Orchestra and premiered in 2006. It calls for a standard size orchestra with much use of the three percussion players. It is intended to picture sunrise in rural New Hampshire, though without that fact my unaware ears would have built a picture of a dark, menacing and disturbing scene. The disc’s most recent score comes with Chasing Light…written in 2008 for performance by the American League of Orchestras of which the Nashville Symphony is a member. It continues in exactly the same mould as Morning’s Embrace, this shorter four-movement piece ending with Morning’s Embrace Confronts the Dawn. The Nashville Symphony’s performances, under their recently appointed music director, Giancarlo Guerrero, are very imposing, the recorded sound high on impact yet clearly detailed.

    – David Denton
  • Byzantion - MusicWeb International, February 2012

    Lamb, the Nashville Symphony and Guerrero give pretty much immaculate performances in all three works. The Nashvillers now have many recordings under their belt for Naxos, including perhaps a dozen in this generally superb ‘American Classics’ series—long may they continue.

    Recordings made in America are quite often of the highest quality, and these are no exception. The Percussion Concerto was recorded in front of an audience, but the sound is as noise-free as a studio recording. The booklet, whilst slim, is detailed and informative, particularly Schwantner’s own notes on his works, which are all anyone could wish for.

    © 2012 MusicWeb International

    – Byzantion Read Complete Review


Chasing Light

Chamber Orchestra of the Springs, Thomas Wilson- conductor

Upcoming Events

Feb 16, 17, 2019
Santa Barbara Symphony Orchestra perform Joseph Schwantner's Chasing Light...
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Notes on the Program by Dr. Richard E. Rodda

Chasing Light ... (2008)

Joseph Schwantner composed Chasing Light... in 2008 as part of the Ford Made in America

a partnership program of the League of American Orchestras and Meet The Composer. He wrote of it, “One

of the special pleasures of living in rural New Hampshire is experiencing the often brilliant and intense

early morning sunrises, reminding one of Thoreau’s words, ‘Morning is when I am awake and there is a

dawn in me’ (Walden). Chasing Light...draws its spirit, energy and inspiration from the celebration of

vibrant colors and light that penetrate the morning mist as it wafts through the trees in the high New

England hills. Like a delicate dance, those images intersected with a brief original poem that helped fire

my musical imagination.

Chasing Light ...

Beneath the sickle moon,

sunrise ignites daybreak’s veil

Calliope’s rainbowed song

cradles heaven’s arc

piercing shadowy pines,

a kaleidoscope blooms

morning’s embrace

confronts the dawn

Each movement’s subtitle is associated with a pair of lines from the poem.

"Sunrise Ignites Daybreak’s Veil " (Con forza, feroce con bravura) opens with an introduction containing

three forceful and diverse ideas presented by full orchestra: (1) a low rhythmic and percussive pedal point

followed by (2) a three-note triplet figure in the brass overlaid by (3) a rapid swirling cascade of arch-like

upper woodwind phrases cast in a stretto-like texture [i.e., close imitative entries]. These primary elements

form the melodic, harmonic and rhythmic materials developed in the work.

“Calliope’s Rainbowed Song" (Lontano [distantly]). The rapid, arched woodwind phrases in the

introduction to the first movement occur in a variety of divergent contexts throughout the work. Cast in an

arch-like palindrome form, this movement begins softly, first with solo clarinet followed by a repeated

piano sonority that forms the structure of a theme played by solo flute. Gradually, this theme builds to an

exuberant midpoint, followed by sections that appear in reverse order, finally ending quietly and gently

with solo clarinet and an ethereal violin harmonic that carries over to the third movement.

“A Kaleidoscope Blooms" (Lacrimoso [tearfully]), a slow, expressive and elegiac movement for

oboe, opens with a low, dark repeated pedal note played by piano, contrabass and gong. Sudden rapid

woodwind gestures contrast and frame a succession of gradually ascending oboe phrases that

accumulate ever-greater urgency as the music approaches its maximum intensity at the end.

“Morning’s Embrace Confronts the Dawn" (Lontano...leggiero [lightly].) The rapid and aggressive

woodwind phrases in the first movement now emerge in delicate and shimmering string textures. These

earlier elements prepare for a stately but urgent chorale theme that builds forcefully to the palindromic

music of the third movement, the introductory materials of the first, and a final climactic conclusion.