John Donald Robb Symphony Number One
John D. Robb's Symphony for Strings (Symphony No. 1) is in three movements: Dance; Elegy for Our War Dead and Theme with Variations and Interludes. The symphony reflects a number of influences: Romantic; folk; mid-twentieth century; and, at times, Baroque, with a concerto grosso use of solo strings alternating with the full string orchestra.
The first movement opens with a mysterious 28-bar introductory Largo. The ensuing Allegro e marcarto is somewhat Bartok-like in rhythm, harmony and thematic material.
The moving second movement, Elegy for Our War Dead is often performed independently of the symphony. John D. Robb, Jr. provided the following about his father, John Donald Robb, and the Symphony for Strings - in particular, the Elegy:
"The likely date of the composition of the Symphony for Strings appears to have been about 1946, almost immediately after the termination of hostilities. I know my father suffered from the terrible casualties of the war and was especially outraged at what Nazi Germany had done to cause such horror. Dean Robb had many close musical, professional and social friends in England, France (including, of course, Nadia Boulanger), Russia and Germany, some of whom emigrated in the 1930's in the face of persecution. Many of the immigrants were guests from time to time in our home, especially at Shelter Island, New York - the Robb summer home. "
"Dean Robb was also a patriot, a defender of the American way, and of thruth and righteousness. He had been through the horrors of World War I as a Field Artillery Captain in France during many difficult battles in 1917-18, where tens of thousands had been killed in trench warfare. I fell that the deep emotional depths of the Elegy for Our War Dead reflect deep sorrows from these relationships, experiences and feelings."
The third movement is based upon an original folk-like melody with clearly recognizable variations of the theme. The first movement's slow introduction reappears as a coda to the entire work.
At the behest of the John D. Robb Musical Trust, John J. Mitchell edited the musical scores of both Robb's Viola Concerto and the Symphony for Strings.
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