Symphony No. 9
SMC S976FS/ HL 294817
Premiered on 21 September, 2018 in Lawrence, Kansas by The University of Kansas Wind Ensemble (Dr. Paul Popiel, conducting), James Barnes’ Ninth Symphony was composed between January and late June of that same year. This large work was commissioned by a consortium of twenty-one college bands, community bands, professional bands and individuals to help mark the 70th birthday of the composer (b. 1949). It is an expansive forty-minute work in four movements, of which the composer writes, “This is my last symphony…this work represents a compendium of all that I have learned during the fifty years of composing and scoring for this wonderful new medium: the modern wind band.”
The first movement, subtitled Elegy, is based around G minor. It is the longest movement of the symphony. Tragic and despondent in character, it is cast in sonata-allegro form. The second movement is entitled Scherzo. Barnes claims that “I have always wanted to write a waltz,” and that is how this movement is cast, in a modified rondo form in D minor. In contrast to the mood of the first movement, the scherzo is a delightful posy of expansive melody, splashy color, humor and rhythm. The third movement, which is in a modified tertiary form, is entitled Night Music. In contrast to the scherzo, this movement begins with a mysterious incantation, first displayed by solo Alto Flute. The music becomes even darker and more mysterious, while overall the movement effectively expresses an “otherworldly” mood, ending with a solo soprano offstage which suddenly emerges, eerily singing a modified version of the opening incantation. Cast in sonata-allegro form, the fourth movement is most definitely a rousing Finale, beginning with a brilliant fanfare and undergoing several mood transformations before emerging into the final coda, ending the symphony with an energetic splash of color.