The polyphony of the work is nothing short of genius. Truly. The relationship between the parts is so well written. Having your work on the program was wonderful. It truly embodies the best of American contemporary classical music. It is rhythmically enticing, harmonically satisfying and interesting, makes full use of what a string section can do, shows a broad spectrum of colors without forcing anything, provides several "eye closingly beautiful moments", and keeps the audience engaged from beat one.
~Maestro Jeffrey Dokken
Program notes by Brian Wise
Washington, D.C.-based composer Brian Grundstrom has written works for film, orchestra, piano, and chamber ensemble in a style that's modern yet tonal, exhibiting traces of Aaron Copland, Kurt Weill and Samuel Barber. American Reflections is Grundstrom's second commission by SONOS Chamber Orchestra, the first being Celebration in 2003. As the title of the new piece suggest, Grundstrom was committed to writing music that captures the American character, but not in the usual style of patriotic anthems. "This is not an overt rah-rah stars-and-stripes sort of thing, but rather a more pensive mood," he notes. There's a personal connection in the work's setting: Grundstrom received his B.A. in music at Gettysburg College in Gettysburg, PA, the site of the Civil War's climactic battle (he also earned an MBA in arts administration from SUNY Binghamton).
The piece opens with a playful, buoyant melody in the strings against a delicate pizzicato accompaniment and delicate flourishes in the harp. Other figures join, including a descending fourth interval that suggests a birdcall. The mood remains light and cheery until a shadowy waltz theme appears, unsettling the jovial atmosphere with a more sinister cast. Soon the material from the opening returns to compete with the darker theme, only this time it takes on a more pensive tone. There is a gradual breaking down of the material into smaller fragments until the mood becomes decidedly brooding and unsettled. Darkness doesn't get the final word, however; with a few decisive string gestures, the jovial opening melody returns with a flourish followed by a short, decidedly upbeat recapitulation.