Ma Fin


  • Orchestra
  • Duration: 8 min.

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Cathedral at Leon

On entering the cathedral of Léon, Spain, one is struck not only by its awesome size, but also by its exquisite stained glass, whose traditional design depends on the three levels of a gothic cathedral. The bottom level depicts flowering plants, while the triforium shows earthly activity: men plowing fields, pilgrims traversing the countryside and so forth. Meanwhile, the clerestory is devoted to the eternity of heaven. While each of these levels possesses a different sense of internal and external time, they manage to coexist in the vast expanse of the cathedral and as in the cathedral so to on earth and in heaven.

Ma fin takes this notion of the gothic cathedral as its starting point; both in its separation of the orchestra into three distinct layers viewed at times separately or in combination, as well as in its almost claustrophobic density and solemn nature. One could very well call it a processional for orchestra. One's initial impression is of entering an enormous, and for the most part unrecognizable resonating space. As time continues, the activity is sorted out both in the composition and in the mind of the listener. Tension is created by the interplay of the varying layers of music. The solemnity of the piece, however, does not imply an ending, but rather, as the fourteenth century composer and poet Guillaume de Machaut points out in the rondeau from which the title is borrowed, Ma fin is also a beginning.


2 Oboes
2 Clarinets
Bass Clarinet
2 Bassoons
4 Horns
2 Trumpets
3 Trombones
3 Percussion


Aspen Chamber Symphony, July 1998
Jeri Johnson, conductor

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