Sidereus, Overture for Small Orchestra Oswaldo Golijov b. 1960
Oswaldo Golijov composed Sidereus on commission by thirty-five orchestras to honor Henry Fogel, president of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra between 1985 and 2003 and president of the League of American Orchestras between 2003 and 2010. Fogel has been a life-long, tireless advocate for classical music, strengthening his ties with this country's network of orchestras, large and small during his tenure at the League. Golijov, who had been composer-in-residence for the Chicago Symphony, says that he accepted the commission because of his admiration for Fogel's "long-term thinking, his love for what orchestras represent in our society, and his wisdom in helping orchestras not only to survive but to thrive, through strategies that are specific to each of the orchestras communities and conditions."
Golijov took his title from Galileo's Sidereus Nuncius(Starry Messenger) in which the seventeenth-century astronomer and physicist wrote of his observations of the moon's surface with the newly invented telescope and, more disturbingly, the discovery of four of the moons of Jupiter. In an interview, Golijov said: "With these discoveries, the moon was no longer the province of poets exclusively. It had also become an object of inquiry: Could there be water there? Life? If there was life, then the Vatican was scared, because, as Cardinal Bellarmino wrote to Galileo: How were the people there created? How would their souls be saved? What do we do about Adam? Wasn't he supposed to be the first man? How do we explain the origin of possible life elsewhere? What about his rib? It's the duality: the moon is still good for love and lovers and poets, but a scientific observation can lead us to entirely new realizations."
In Sidereus, the melodies and the harmony are simple, so they can reveal more upon closer examination. For the "moon" theme, Golijov uses as a melody a scale fragment. "I then looked at that theme as if through the telescope and under the microscope, so that the textures, the patterns from which the melody emerges and into which it dissolves, point to a more molecular, atomic reality, like Galileo with his telescope." Golijov wraps this scalar fragment of five descending notes from dominant to tonic in an ostinato of shimmering starlight in the upper strings and woodwinds.
Born into an Eastern European Jewish household in officially Catholic Argentina, Golijov has forged a musical style based on Western Classical music, the traditional Jewish and Christian liturgies, folk traditions of several countries, and Latin-American influences with particular attention to the tango as developed by Astor Piazzolla. Golijov transforms these materials into entirely new forms and sounds. Klezmer music has been an important source for many of his compositions, the best known being The Dreams and Prayers of Isaac the Blind, for string quartet and clarinet.
In 1983 Golijov moved to Israel where he studied with the Ukrainian-born musicologist and composer Mark Kopytman. In 1986 he came to the United States and earned his Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania. Since 1991 he is the Loyola Professor of Music at College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA.
Program notes by:
Joseph & Elizabeth Kahn