Composers Datebook®

with host John Birge

Saturday, February 16

Corigliano at the Circus Maximus

Synopsis

Today’s date marks the birthday in 1938 of the American composer John Corigliano, and also, in 2005, of the premiere performance of his Symphony No. 3, a work scored for large wind ensemble. The premiere performance was given in Austin, Texas, by the University of Texas Wind Ensemble led by Jerry F. Junkin.

Coriglian titled his new symphony “Circus Maximus,” and offered this explanation: “The Circus Maximus of ancient Rome was a real place. The largest arena in the world, it entertained over 300,000 spectators daily for nearly a thousand years. Chariot races, hunts and battles satisfied the Roman public’s need for grander and wilder amusements as the Empire declined. The parallels between the high decadence of Rome and our present time are obvious. Entertainment dominates our culture, and ever-more-extreme ‘reality’ shows dominate our entertainment. Many of us have become as bemused by the violence and humiliation that flood the 500-plus channels of our television screens as those mobs of imperial Rome who considered the devouring of human beings by starving lions just another Sunday show.”

In performance, Corigliano asks that a huge array of brass, wind, and percussion surround the audience on all sides. As brass instruments roar and cheer all around them, the audience is meant to feel more like the watched than the watchers, and Corigliano ends the work with a bang—literally—as a shotgun blast provides the symphony’s final exclamation point!

Music Played in Today's Program

John Corigliano (b. 1938) Circus Maximus University of Texas Wind Ensemble; Jerry Junkin, cond. Naxos 8.559601

Additional Information

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