- opening section

Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony
Conductor: Chosei Komatsu

Duration: 10 minutes
Written: 1980
Premiered: March 29, 1996
by Kitchener- Waterloo Symphony
Conductor: Chosei Komatsu
The Centre in the Square
Kitchener, Canada
  • 2 Flutes (second doubles on Piccolo)
  • 2 Oboes
  • 2 Clarinets
  • 2 Bassoons
  • 2 Trumpets in C
  • 4 Horns in F
  • 2 Trombones
  • Bass Trombone
  • Tuba
  • Timpani
  • Percussion I (Bass Drum, Sizzle Cymbal, Glockenspiel, Xylophone)
  • Percussion II (2 Tam-tams, 2 Suspended Cymbals, Vibraphone, Snare Drum)
  • Strings
1995-96 season proved to be one of the most productive in my professional career. In addition to my Viola Concerto and Ancestral Voices for string orchestra, I also wrote two works for large orchestra inspired by Nordic Themes: Symphony of Nordic Tales, and a concert overture Saga. In 1997, for all four of these works, I was awarded the Jean A. Chalmers National Music Award.
While the symphony is a work of epic proportions, Saga is brief and concise. Evocative, but not specifically programmatic, it is intended to capture the imagination of the listener rather than to tell a story.
The architecture of this ten-minute work is simple and easy to follow. Occasionally, some passages may bring to mind a certain resonance of Grieg or Sibelius, while the overall mood is shaped within the context of an extended tonal language.
Envisioned as a companion piece to the Symphony of Nordic Tales, Saga is scored for the same large orchestra, and it commands the same virtuosity from its players. It is designed in one movement, which divides into two distinct sections. The opening slow section introduces the “main characters” and sets up the dramatic conflict. The closing fast section brings a resolution to this conflict following a powerful, climactic “reversal of fortune”. Just prior to the climax, an effect of a “music box” makes an appearance – a gentle reminder of that which is innocent, sublime and pure.
Saga was inspired by and dedicated to my then twelve-years-old daughter Rachel, with whom I shared many memories of our residence in Scandinavia and fascination with Nordic legends.
Saga was commissioned by the Kitchener – Waterloo Symphony Orchestra with the assistance of The Canada Council.

“Calling back ancient Nordic folklore, this work reflects a well-grounded, mature composer who has a thorough grasp of orchestral techniques...
Written to feature individual players of the KWS as well as the orchestra as a whole, this work, commissioned by the KWS, is powerful, original, visceral.”

- The RECORD; March 30, 1996