Postcards from America
Postcards from America
suite for chamber orchestra (1996)
- Premiere: 15 October 1996 / Shattuck Auditorium, Waukesha, Wisconsin / Waukesha Symphony Orchestra / Richard Hynson
- Commissioned by the Oakland East Bay and Waukesha Symphony Orchestras, "Affectionately, to my brother Britt"
- Instrumentation: 2(I=picc).2.2.2-184.108.40.206-timp.perc(1)-str
- Duration: 21'
- Yaddo, Summer 1988
- Lake Mendota, Summer 1981
- Saint Mark's Place, Autumn 1990
- Mount San Angelo, Winter 1988
- Delancey Place, Autumn 1983
- The Dakota, October 1990
Over the past two decades I have composed dozens of brief musical portraits of the people and places I have known and loved. Postcards from America collects six of them.
Yaddo, Summer of 1988 is a portrait of the artist colony in Saratoga Springs, New York. I have been honored to serve as a Lifetime Member of the Corporation of Yaddo for many years. during my 20s-40s, it was more a home to me than anywhere else. This movement was written at the parlour piano in West House one rainy afternoon and shared with close friends after dinner.
Lake Mendota, Summer of 1981 composed in Madison, Wisconsin while I was an undergraduate there. I often wonder how my life would have unspooled had I not moved to Philadelphia during Summer 1981.
Saint Mark's Place, Autumn of 1990 was written in a fifth floor walk-up apartment on the Lower East Side of Manhattan that I shared with my cat, Clara, for a few years. (There was no doorbell: visitors rang me from a payphone across the street from Cooper Union, and I threw my keys down to them in a sock so that they could get in.) This movement captures an early-morning stroll eastwards along Saint Mark's Place at that time, towards Tompkins Square Park.
Mount San Angelo, Winter of 1988 is a snow scene set just outside of Lynchburg, Virginia, at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, on a large hill called Mount San Angelo. Before I settled down and had a family, I spent the Christmas Holidays working with other artists there. One Christmas morning, I awoke to the glittering sight of every tree and building on the farm sheathed in ice.
Delancey Place, October of 1983 evokes domestic life at 2214 Delancey, a beautiful old brownstone in which I lived (with Michaela Paetsch, Robert La Rue, and Lisa Ponton) as a student in Philadelphia. The light, as it streams through the sycamore trees in that city, is something I'll never forget.
The final movement, The Dakota, October of 1990 is a humble elegy composed that October in memory of Leonard Bernstein, who kept a home there. There are echos of LB's music in the movement, of course, as are the recurring final pitches A-C — the initials of his mentor, Aaron Copland.
Each movement was composed at the time and in the place noted in the title, assembled and orchestrated during July and August of 1996 in New York City and completed on 17 August 1996. The suite was co-commissioned by the Waukesha Symphony Orchestra and the Oakland East Bay Symphony and first performed by the Waukeska Symphony, conducted by Richard Hynson, at Shattuck Auditorium, in Waukesha, Wisconsin on 15 October 1996 and by the Oakland East Bay Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Music Director Michael Morgan, in Oakland, California on 15 May 1998.
— Daron Hagen, 1996
This intimate music does not illustrate place; it conveys moods and memories about place. Aside from the expressionistic angst of the final movement, Hagen seems to have spent his time in paradise. The first four settings are warmly nostalgic, a flow of chords that glow like coals on the hearth in the wintry works and in summer rise to climaxes as soft as a scattering puff on a globe of dandelion seeds. The idiom here is cozy, somehwere between Barber, Copland and Vaughn Williams. Hagen tries to distinguish each locale, mainly through emphasis on various orchestral choirs, but they blend quickly into a pleasant reverie.
— Tom Strini, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 10/16/96
Both the orchestra's performance and Hagen's composition were rewarded with enthusiastic applause and bravos by the audience.
— Craig Hurst, The Waukesha Freeman, 10/16/96