Hard on the heels of one Pacific Symphony commission comes another. Last week, the orchestra played Elliot Goldenthal's "Fire Water Paper: A Vietnam Oratorio." Next Wednesday and Thursday, the orchestra will play the first performances of "On Time's Stream" by Pacific composer-in-residence Frank Ticheli.
The 15-minute piece, cast in two movements ("Upstream," "Downstream"), is Ticheli's fourth for the orchestra, coincident with his fourth season as composer-in-residence. (His contract, incidentally, was recently extended two years, through 1997.) The other three works are "Pacific Fanfare," an orchestrated version of "Postcard" and "Radiant Voices," his ambitious reflections on the Los Angeles riots.
"They all have something in common," Ticheli said in a recent phone interview from Texas. "They had big endings. I thought it would be nice to go out quietly."
"On Time's Stream"--which takes its title but not subject matter from a poem by the Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore--does just that.
In a program note, the 37-year-old composer writes that the work "represents time's influence on nature's cycles with such obvious metaphors as sunrise and sunset, growth and decline, spring and winter, life and death.
"Sharing a re-occurring common theme throughout the piece, the orchestra assumes the role of a giant tolling bell which gradually surrenders its energy to the second movement's peaceful, dreamlike character, with the end of the orchestration focusing on vague memories of the work's beginning."
From Texas, he added: "The beginning came to me very quickly, one of those rushes of inspiration that come so seldom--and then after that, there was nothing."
He started the composition around the Christmas holidays in 1993.
"I was alone. My wife was in India," he said. "I felt the need to write some poetry. I wrote some poems and liked one a lot. Out of that poem came this (musical) beginning--the main theme played on a trumpet. . . . I got that very bright sound, then got stuck for a while how to develop this idea. Eventually it became easy, but it took some time."
He finished the work while attending two well-known artists' colonies--Yaddo in New York and the MacDowell Colony in New Hampshire.
Ticheli, who recently was promoted to an associate professor of music at USC, dedicated the work to his mother, just as he dedicated the earlier "Playing With Fire," a concerto for jazz band and orchestra composed in 1992, to his father. Both his parents will be at the premiere.
The opening theme "comes back many times, always changing character," he said. "In the second movement, the character changes drastically. The trumpet fanfare becomes an adagio."
The texture varies.
"It's certainly not a Barber 'Adagio for Strings' all the time," he said. "I like to make noise. That's partly who I am. We're not here very long. I want to make some noise while I'm here."
* What: Pacific Symphony plays the premiere of Frank Ticheli's "On Time's Stream."
* When: Wednesday and May 11 at 8 p.m.
* Where: The Orange County Performing Arts Center, 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa.
* Whereabouts: Take the San Diego (405) Freeway to the Bristol Avenue exit north. Take Bristol to Town Center Drive and turn right.
* Wherewithal: $14 to $41.
* Where to call: (714) 556-2787.