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Composed: 1939

Length: 10 min

About this Piece

Quiet City, from 1939, was incidental music for a failed play by Irwin Shaw; its main character was a lonely Jewish boy who attempted to drive away his torment by playing the trumpet. The original was scored for a small ensemble of clarinet, saxophone, trumpet, and piano; the version we hear tonight was scored in 1940 for trumpet, English horn, and strings. The English horn participates in a dialogue with the trumpet, both instruments speaking a secret language — part “blues,” part temple cantor; the strings, at first serving as accompanists, invoke a dream-like sense of aloneness. Ultimately, they all join together (reluctantly?) in the climax of the work, portraying the anxiety, as well as the isolation, of the city.

— Dave Kopplin