North Carolina Symphony under Maestro Grant Llewellyn Performs HIRAETH
Critics have had some nice things to say about HIRAETH, Sarah’s new 30 minute work for full orchestra, which was co-commissioned and premiered by North Carolina Symphony on September 26, 2015.
Dan Ruccia of Indy Week writes:
“…For Snider, that lost homeland consists of memories of childhood visits to her grandparents in Salisbury, North Carolina, shot through with grief for her father, who died shortly after she started writing the piece. Unsurprisingly, the music is quite dark, though never grim. She achieves this effect in ways both obvious and subtle: large swaths of minor-key harmonies; well-placed bursts of dissonance or eerie drones that cut against the cheerier melodies; dense orchestral writing that feels heavy, like the humid summer air of her memories; and the overall architecture, which never quite functions how you expect.
For instance, the final build—a memorable passage with echoing, interlocking lines in the strings and brass over a simple melody in various lower voices, all buoyed by an insistent snare drum line—seems to gain momentum over a few minutes (or maybe more or less, as time flows in unusual ways through the piece), working toward some expected grand climax. But instead, at what could be a peak, the music dissipates into something much more somber, gradually dissolving into nothingness. One could make a case that this is a metaphor for loss, but that reading might be too heavy-handed. Overall, Snider’s command of the orchestra is fantastic, even if her colors are always highly saturated. It’s an engrossing composition that I look forward to hearing again.”
And Paul D. Williams of the Classical Voice of North Carolina writes:
“The featured work of the first half was the second in a series of three world premiere performances of Hiraeth, by the acclaimed young composer, Sarah Kirkland Snider. Hiraeth is a Welsh word that is said to depict “a feeling of homesickness for a land that never existed or one to which you can never return.” Although the thirty-minute work is not described as a tone poem, that would be a satisfying descriptor of the remembrances and the longing for the times the composer spent in North Carolina. Visual accompaniment for the piece was a large screen showing scenes of seemingly everyday life in small towns and pastoral areas, produced by Mark DeChiazza – small children playing, quotidian activities of a typical day. (In a few of the scenes, women were shown smoking cigarettes, a fact that is certain to elicit wrath from the usual scolds.) While these visuals projected a certain charm, it is not clear whether they constituted true ornamentation or a mere distraction.
The music definitely needed no supplementation. The scoring called for a large contingent of instruments. The orchestration was glorious, even luxuriant, with its rich palette of dark and light hues. One could well be reminded of the wonderful tone poems of Richard Strauss. The honored composer was present, appearing on stage to make her well-deserved bows to the exuberant audience.”