David Jason Snow

In the Words of…

“Winter was composed in 1998 at the request of trumpeter Chris Gekker, a friend and colleague with whom my association goes back 40 years to our undergraduate days at the Eastman School of Music. I used the opportunity to fashion a musical memorial to pianist Wendy Maraniss, a gifted and sensitive musician I had the privilege of knowing during my studies at the Yale School of Music, who was tragically killed in an automobile accident in 1997. The title reflects the elegiac mood of the work, denoting as it does the period of the year during which life rests in a state of quiescence before the season of rebirth and renewal that follows. In its formal structure, Winter comes as close to a classical sonata as any work I ever composed, while its melodicand harmonic vocabulary pays homage to popular and neo-classical traditions of mid-20th century American music.”

David Jason Snow, on Winter

David Jason Snow (born in 1954 in Providence, Rhode Island) first studied composition education at the Eastman School of Music under the instruction of Samuel Adler, Warren Benson, and Joseph Schwantner. He also studied with Jacob Druckman at the Yale School of Music, and Arthur Berger and Martin Boykan at Brandeis University near Boston, MA. Snow has received many other awards, fellowships, residencies, and commissions from such organizations as BMI, the ASCAP Foundation, the National Association of Composers/USA, the College Band Directors Association, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Snow has composed many other works featuring the trumpet, including the popular A Baker’s Tale arranged for trumpet, several arrangements for mixed ensemble and narrator, as well as large wind ensemble.

Winter shares many characteristics with a traditional sonata: it consists of three through-composed movements and adheres at times to the structural conventions of sonata form. The first movement opens with an extended piano introduction that establishes the thematic catalogue from which the rest of the work largely pulls. The following trumpet fanfare interlude is mostly unrelated, but seems to call to a close the festive Fall season, ultimately giving way to a more sober setting, a first frost of the year perhaps. The movement ends with a dramatic arrival in both the trumpet and piano.

The second movement opens again with a protracted piano interlude reminiscent of Vince Guaraldi’s iconic piano writing, suggesting a cool childhood winter morning with A Charlie Brown Christmas playing on the family television.The trumpet and piano then burst into a fanfare, the muted trumpet playing a kind of amalgamation between both the toy trumpet scene and the tin soldiers’ march in Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker.The trumpet and piano then begin a jazzy duet full of both song and fanfare moments before starting the slow climb back to the piano’s first notes of the piece, this time set bleakly in the trumpet. The ensemble then goes through a period of call and response, followed by a triumphant expedition to the final fanfare moments, defined by a haunting atonal descending theme in the piano. Almost as an afterthought, the piano then fades with the opening theme as if it were a wind-up music box which has run out of tension.

The final movement begins in the piano with the same theme as the second movement, but in a lower key. Before the quotation is complete, however, the theme is interrupted by forlorn block quarter note chords surpassed in loneliness only by the jazz trumpet solo. The trumpet and piano then begin a period of mourning conversation, broken by short bursts of happiness, then culminating in a dramatic restatement by both the trumpet and piano of the opening theme in diminution. The movement then begins a sequence of theme and variations, each culminating in a fanfare reiteration of the opening piano introduction, this time set in the trumpet. Finally, Snow ends the work with a fireworks display reminiscent of the virtuosic cornet solos of the early 19th century.

Of note to the performers, there are several inconsistencies between the score and the trumpet part. When these arose, we deferred to the score, although have performed it both ways. Kristy Mezines and I felt that the score probably most closely represented the wishes of the composer. Rita Sloan and Chris Gekker, whom premiered the work, chose to accede to the trumpet part. Kristy and I were inspired by images of childhood and attempted to capture the wonder and gravitas of the holiday season from the perspective of a child playing with a nutcracker on Christmas morning. Not every aesthetic was positive, as the bleakness of the third movement was, at times, palpable.