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My Sixth Symphony was written in the year 1984–85 under a grant from the Serge Koussevitzky Foundation of the Library of Congress and is dedicated to the memory of Serge and Natalie Koussevitzky. It was composed for the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra whose Music Director at the time was David Zinman, a very close friend of mine. After the work was completed, Zinman said that he could not schedule it until several seasons later. Unfortunately, he left his position in Baltimore before it was premiered and the piece unfortunately remained unperformed. It happens quite often today that most orchestras do not want to perform a work by a living composer which was not commissioned by them. This was the case with my Sixth Symphony.
My Fourth and Fifth Symphonies are in four and five movements respectively, but this symphony goes back to the form of my first two symphonies and has three movements. I was inspired by the idea of feeling the energy of our time. The first movement (marked ‘Fast and with much excitement’) pulsates from beginning to end only interrupted occasionally by a woodwind solo or a lyrical passage by the strings of the orchestra. However most of the time, the orchestra and especially the brass choir, forges ahead with great energy.
The second movement greatly contrasts the first. It is quite mysterious; the character is reminiscent of the eerie feeling one experiences when leaves unexpectedly rustle. There are sudden lyrical passages which are evocative of children’s songs. I’ve always been interested in these types of passages and the role they can play; in this movement they occur just before a great outburst from the orchestra. This leads to a calming of the mood and a quiet mysterious close. In the last movement we have again a burst of incredible energy introduced by a brass fanfare. A constantly changing beat gives the movement an unsettled feeling. One should never sense any doom, only an overcoming of vicissitudes by sheer energy and optimism. The tempo marking for this final movement is ‘Fast and rhythmic’; it never lets up until a very dynamic climax at the end.
from notes by Samuel Adler © 2016