Walter Ross

Walter Ross

~ A Jefferson Symphony

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A Jefferson Symphony

  1. Revolution
  2. Prayer for Peace
  3. Vision

A Jefferson Symphony was written as a National Endowment of the Arts Bicentennial commission to be premiered at the University of Virginia founded by Thomas Jefferson.

After conceiving the idea of a large-scale symphonic work based on words of Jefferson, my first task was to find suitable texts for a musical setting. The challenge was to find passages from the writings that were concise, yet broad enough in scope to effectively represent Jefferson's ideals, texts that would contribute to a unified conception of those ideals while at the same time offering possibilities for contrast. Two months of poring through essays, pamphlets, letters, and other documents uncovered material that met the requirements, excerpts from "The Rights of British America" and The Declaration of Independence for the first movement; lines of supplication and reflection from the second inaugural address for the slow movement; and passages of hope and optimism in the late letters for the finale.

My incorporation of these texts into a symphony means that they become detached from their original, particular significance and take on new, universal meanings. The narrator-soloist becomes an intermediary rather than the embodiment of the statesman himself, and the chorus, which forms an integral part of the orchestral ensemble, participates in a symphonic development with a musical logic of its own.

This is a large, three movement work for orchestra (triple winds, four horns, four trumpets, three trombones, two tubas, timpani, three percussion, harp, strings, chorus (SATB), and tenor solo). The symphony is dissonant, but not atonal. The harmonic and melodic structures are reminiscent of middle-period Bartok.


This work has not yet been recorded professionally.

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.

For archival quality scans of scores and parts, or lossless audio recordings please contact the composer.


Walter Ross, wbr@virginia.edu :: Home