Year of Publication
Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA)
Dr. John Cody Birdwell
Born in 1972, Luis Serrano Alarcón has in a very short period of time, established himself as one of Spain’s most prominent composers. His works are constantly being performed, not only in his home country, but throughout the world. While some of his compositions tend to retain the rhythmic, harmonic, and melodic style typical to Spanish music, many of the works sound as if they were borne more from the Viennese symphonic tradition, both during the time of Haydn and Beethoven, but also during the time of Arnold Schoenberg.
As a young boy Alarcón took up piano lessons with a local teacher by the name of Javier Barranco. Through him, Alarcón learned “the music for piano of the great masters of Classicism, Romanticism, and Spanish Nationalism.” In addition he began to study with two other teachers: Jose Cervera Collado and Jose Maria Cervara Lloret. With Collado, Alarcón studied conducting, and with Lloret he studied harmony. As a result of all of this training, Alarcón was drawn toward the symphonic music of the Classical and Romantic periods, especially gravitating toward the music of Beethoven and Brahms.
Alarcón’s compositional style has maintained a chameleon-like flexibility as he is able to change styles from one composition to the next with litheness and grace, showing a strong grasp of American jazz as well as flamenco music of his native country in Duende, capturing the sounds of tango from Argentina in Concertango, and of course, in the many examples of his paso dobles. Unlike many of his contemporaries, though, Alarcón’s unique voice seems to emerge through any style he is embracing or any combination of instruments in his orchestration.
In terms of style, Symphony for Wind Orchestra (2012) is an entirely different type of composition. It is immediately apparent from the opening tutti strikes, that (like Mozart and many other traditional composers before and after), Alarcón is embracing a iii traditional symphonic style in this composition by utilizing one of its most common symphonic topos. Symphony for Wind Orchestra is an amazing study of the Classical symphony from its earliest beginnings in Mannheim, to its codification at the hands of Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven, and to its explosion in size and scope at the end of the nineteenth and early twentieth century with composers like Brahms, Bruckner, and Mahler. Perhaps more important, though, is his choice of harmonic language and compositional approach. The work is decidedly based upon thematic material that is reminiscent of the Second Viennese School; atonal at times, semi-tonal at others, but consistently manipulated through the operations (transposition, inversion, retrograde, verticalization, and serialization), that were made popular by Arnold Schoenberg, his students, and those who followed them.
The genesis of this composition was a consortium of band directors from the Southeastern Conference Band Association, led initially by Tom Verrier, who is Senior Band Conductor and Director of Wind Ensembles at Vanderbilt University. Dr. John Cody Birdwell was a part of the consortium from its onset, but didn’t initially plan on conducting the premiere at his school (the University of Kentucky). Birdwell stated,“...the opportunity to premiere the work sort of ‘landed in our lap.’ I had heard some of Alarcón’s other compositions in recent years, and I knew that this piece was going to be fantastic, so we moved forward without any hesitation.”
Clearly with so much positive feedback regarding the work, this document is certainly justified. The goals of this study are to provide some background for the work and its composer, to analyze the work while providing examples of all of its main themes and important figures, and where appropriate, to show how they relate to each other. This document will also create a helpful performance guide for conductors, which should facilitate and contribute to many more performances of this significant work in the future.
Along with the harmonic and thematic analysis of the work, this document will also include interviews with the composer, the conductor of the premiere of the work (Dr. John Cody Birdwell), one of the early and staunch supporters of Alarcón’s works (Dr. Tim Reynish), and Javier Enguidanos Morató - another Spanish conductor who recently performed the work.
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Goodwin, Donald F., "SYMPHONY FOR WIND ORCHESTRA BY LUIS SERRANO ALARCÓN: BACKGROUND, ANALYSIS, AND CONDUCTOR’S GUIDE" (2016). Theses and Dissertations--Music. 55.