Brandenburg Gate was commissioned by Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, and premiered at Carnegie Hall in October 2008, part of Orpheus’ “Brandenburg” project involving commissions from six composers.
The Brandenburg concertos are among Bach's most joyous creations. As part of Orpheus Chamber Orchestra's "New Brandenburg" project, I wanted to project a similar quality of energy. The title, Brandenburg Gate, suggests a portal through which we enter Bach's world of exuberant invention. It also refers to the actual monument in Berlin, which I personally associate primarily with the astonishing images of the opening of the Berlin Wall in early November, 1989. It seemed a joyous moment indeed not only for Berliners, but for all of us watching on television around the world. Among other things, this piece involves the spirit of that historic moment, and by no means attempts to describe the events literally.
There are three movements in this piece (fast-slow-fast) and they are played attacca, that is, without interruption between the movements. The name Bach, B.A.C.H., can be represented in German notation as Bb-A-C-B-natural. Bach himself used this device occasionally in his own music, and various composers since then have followed suit in tribute the master. This piece is, among other things, a musical meditation and elaboration on this motive. The B.A.C.H motive, being essentially chromatic, suits my musical language, as it tends to be extremely chromatic in general. I even use it at times as the foundation of a few twelve-tone rows treated in the general context of my own peculiar tonality. By the way, this section is the one onomatopoeic element in the piece: the pizzicato suggests to me the sound of a lot of hammers and chisels picking away at the Berlin Wall.
“Paul Moravec’s “Brandenburg Gate” (No. 2) suggests not only the title arch but the fall of the Berlin Wall, with a musical motif based on the letters of Bach’s name.”