I was inspired to compose this work because of another sinfonietta (perhaps the most well-known), Sinfonietta by Leoš Janáček, composed for orchestra in 1926. Despite the title, Janáček's Sinfonietta is rather epic in scale and I wanted to compose a work for symphonic band that was similar in size and scope, but one that was, emotionally speaking, the antithesis to Janáček's. While the sinfonietta by Janáček is often lauded as a hopeful vision, mine is rife with uncertainty.
The first movement is constructed of merely four pitches: E, G, C, and C#. The ensemble is separated into four groups: upper woodwinds, high brass, lower woodwinds and tuba, and trombones and euphonium. These sections were carefully designed to create just the "right" timbre. I envisioned these timbres to represent something like large, heavy pillars that are constantly competing for the same space. These "pillars" sound the four pitches in doubled octaves creating an angular and pointillistic texture giving this short piece its aggressive mood.
The second movement features a descending four-note ostinato. This ostinato evolves into a motive that makes up the beginning of the first theme. The second theme is somewhat lyrical and is presented first in the oboe and bells. The second theme is reiterated in different sections and at the climax presented by the brass with the woodwinds superimposing the first theme.
The third movement begins with a simple hymn. The hymn is heard first in the euphonium and tuba, followed by muted trombones, and then the horns and woodwinds. A gentle and mysterious section ensues and the hymn is sent through a series of variations with solo appearances from the soprano saxophone, horn, and trumpet. The "pillars" from the first movement return. However, the "pillar" pitches do not fit in the current harmony and ultimately, the once clean, pastoral hymn, is now polluted. At the closing, the hymn is tarnished with a new, dissonant harmonic flavor.
The fourth movement is in triple meter and features a nimble, tarantella-like theme. Music from the previous three movements is interwoven with this theme. Vivid orchestration and some unexpected syncopations give the final movement its exciting and stirring character.