Gerard Victory's Six Epiphanies of the Author: A Symphonic Study in Memory of James Joyce
Composed to mark the Joyce's 100 birthday in 1982, this piece premiered in Dublin. I have not yet acquired a copy, but when I do I will provide additional details and a review.
| Excerpts from Contemporary Composers:
The curiously titled Six Epiphanies of the Author is explained by the subtitle "A Symphonic Study in Memory of James Joyce." The orchestral work was composed in 1981 for Joyce's centenary year in 1982. The work is extremely vivid. "Epiphany" (usually associated with Christ) may be translated as the manifestation of a human being. Victory has successfully attempted to depict [a] different side of Joyce's life and work which he clearly finds fascinating. The composition is in six sections with a prologue and epilogue. It is based upon a twelve-note row, which is not stated explicitly in its entirety until the end of the piece. Here Victory's music, like Joyce's literary style, often consists of an all-embracing collage of different elements (e.g., a Habanera, a medieval chorale, a music hall song "The Yorkshire Girl," an Irish melody "The Shores of Amerikay," a marche macabre, etc.) This is one of the most interesting and approachable of Victory's works.
© 1992, Michael Dawney
| Excerpts from the David C.F. Wright article on Composers on the Web:
For the centenary of the birth of James Joyce, which occurred in 1982, Victory completed his Six Epiphanies of the Author for orchestra which is a symphonic study of the dualities in the life of the writer. For example, the second epiphany contrasts the opposing voices in Ireland, the fourth, the intellectual versus the sensual. This impressive score is framed by a prologue and an epilogue and each epiphany is founded upon two contrasting tonal centres drawn from the basic twelve note-row. The prologue describes Joyce's infancy with cleverly-devised inchoate sounds. Reckless cynicism is well captured as, indeed, is the shadow of religious fear hammered out by the oboes in a relentless figure. The first epiphany is an ironic Habanera; the second is a march magnificently orchestrated as one has come to expect from Victory; the third oration and scherzo moves from moving whispers to a riotous bacchanale in which fragments of a music-hall song and parodies of the liturgy are cleverly woven. There is a tremendous moment when the ghost of Joyce's mother appears. The tension and drama is compulsive. The fourth epiphany is, in turn, both tranquil and menacing. The cor anglais depicts Joyce's father singing affectedly the Irish melody "The Shores of Amerikay". The fifth epiphany portrays the two sides of Joyce - the would-be man of the world and the artist. This is followed by the final epiphany, a March Macabre which echoes the earlier Habanera where the underworld, ribald laughter and menace are all portrayed with gripping realism. The epilogue echoes earlier ideas but now, for the first time, the full note-row is stated in its entirety by the solo trumpet as a tranquil arioso.
As with the Symphony no 2 this work is a powerful utterance rich with its varied moods and colours, its rugged and exhilarating orchestration as well as some delightful and delicate sounds; the portrayal of the author's life, without the need of words, is achieved with lucidity which feature had been earlier displayed with Jonathan Swift.
© David C. F. Wright, Ph.D
Apparently there is a recording of Six Epiphanies on RTE Dublin; if anyone can email me news on obtaining this disc, I would appreciate it greatly.
The Contemporary Music Centre Ireland has some details of this work on their Victory page.
David C. F. Wright's article is available online at Classics on the Web.