As the Waters Cover the Sea (a response to Mozart), written in honor of the 200th anniversary of Mozart’s death, is my response to Mozart’s G minor Symphony. The title refers to the time when “the earth shall be full of the knowledge of God as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:9), and the composition is both a musical and spiritual interpretation of Mozart’s work. After repeated listening, I found this symphony communicates a haunting pathos which, to me, has an unsettling, unresolved quality. My composition uses and transforms elements from the symphony as a means to resolve some of its spiritual questions.
My work is in two sections, played without interruption. The first section heightens the unsettled mood, combining such elements as the half-step relationship of the opening melodic motive in various settings, the descending g-minor scale in two-note phrases, the viola continuous 16th note accompaniment figure, the opening melody itself in an expanded form, and the staccato arpeggios from the last movement. These elements work to a frenzy which is finally reduced to the opening two-not half step, the seed from which Mozart’s symphony grew. This motive, beginning in the flutes, gradually permeates the entire orchestra and becoming an urgent cry asking for resolution.
As if entering a new gate, the climax chord simultaneously closes the first section and opens the second. This calmer, more spacious section contrasts with the agitation of the first part. Here the motives transform into agents of inner awakening and strength. An ascending melody begins in the cellos and culminates in a trumpet climax, reaching towards what I felt was a source of grace, with open fifths and fourths allowing the heart to open. Sul tasto violin arpeggios in a slow rocking motion lead gently back to Mozart’s original melody, now with slow, expanded rhythms. It appears first in the celeste and woodwinds, presenting the previously agitato melody, now bathed in peace and light.
In the final moments of the composition, a two-note descending motive from the second movement of Mozart’s symphony appears. In Mozart’s setting it was delicately, almost tentatively spaced as a counterpoint to the main melody. Here the two-note motive gradually increases into a cascade of quintuplets, while the viola accompaniment figure from the symphony’s first movement expands to include cellos and violins creating an energetic, harmonious texture. Over this, a trumpet melody soars to its final climax, filling the hall with sound, “as the waters cover the sea.”
Meira Warshauer (rev. 2022)
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