The Nostalgia of the Infinite

(2004) 8′



The Burning Music

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The unique title of the piece is taken from the painting ‘La nostalgie de l’infini’ by Giorgio de Chirico (1888-1978). De Chirico was a part of the Metaphysical movement in painting at the beginning of the twentieth century. This Italian movement was characterized by bizarre and sometimes quirky imagery, and was a strong influence on the Surrealist painters Salvador Dali and Joan Miro. The painting itself currently calls New York home, residing in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art.

De Chirico’s work, which depicts two small shadowed figures at the foot of an enormous tower, seems to contrast the enormous with the minuscule, the cold with the warm, and the unfeeling with the sentient. It evokes a sense of something beyond the grasp of the anonymous characters, something infinite and unchanging. The opening of the piece pits a cold, harsh sound against a freer, more human music. As the piece continues these two opposites return in various guises, set between passages of a more contemplative, timeless music. Eventually, both the severe and the warmer music combine, leading to a burst of energy which dissipates into a brief restatement of the earlier materials.

The piece was premiered by Paul Haas and the New York Youth Symphony in March 2005 in Carnegie Hall, and was commissioned by the ensemble’s ‘First Music’ program.

But before the Russian fireworks began, the orchestra, made up of 108 musicians from the metropolitan New York area, performed something fairly common for this ensemble but very rare for most youth symphonies: a world premiere. Through its essential First Music series, the orchestra has commissioned works from 62 young composers. It’s hard to imagine a better way to support new voices while at the same time building contemporary music into the regular diet of emerging musicians. In this case, the composer was Thomas Osborne, whose ”Nostalgia of the Infinite,” after the painting by Giorgio de Chirico, was a handsome study in musical contrasts, an evolving orchestral dialogue between steely, brass-heavy gestures and a more lush and pliable response from the strings.

-New York Times, 3/8/05

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