Symphony No. 7 .​.​. Roman Holidays (2008, rev. 2013)

by Thomas Oboe Lee

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My love affair with the city of Rome dates back to the year 1986-87 when I spent just under eleven months at the American Academy in Rome on a Rome Prize Fellowship. During that Fellowship year I was very much inspired by the beauty and culture of the Eternal City, which resulted in a number of works that continue to resonate with me: Twenty-nine Fireflies Book II for solo piano; Concertino for trumpet, timpani and strings; Apples ... six dreams by Richard Kenney; String Quartet No 5 ... Four Birthdays; and Chôrinhos, opus 38.

Since 1997 my wife, Kristin Beckwith, and I have returned to the American Academy in Rome almost every year. I would compose in the morning and then my wife and I would go to our usual haunt at Bar G. for cappuccini and cornetti. And then we’d go to the local bakery and street markets and buy stuff for lunch. In the afternoon we would wander into the city to go shopping and sight-seeing. In the evenings we would dine at one of our favorite local trattorias. Life could not be better in Rome.

Musically speaking, several important works in my portfolio had their beginnings during these sojourns at the Academy , among them Yo Picasso, Flauta Carioca, Mass for the Holy Year 2000, Symphony No. 5 ... Utopia Parkway, Twenty-nine Fireflies Books IV & V, and Piano Concerto ... Mozartiana.

Just before the 2008 recession, clarinetist extraordinaire Jonathan Cohler asked me to write a symphony for the inaugural concert of a new orchestra he was planning to create.

I came up with Symphony No. 7 ... Roman Holidays, my “give back” to the city of Rome – a compendium of favorite places that continue to live in my thoughts and musings.

Although the work is heard in six movements, it is actually divided into seven sections, as in the “seven hills of Rome.”

1. Prelude: Fontana Paola and the panoramic view of the city of Rome from that vantage point.

2. First interlude: La Befana festivities at Piazza Navona.

3. The Protestant Cemetery in Testaccio at night under a full moon.

4. Second interlude: Fontana delle Tartarughe in the Jewish Ghetto.

5. Bernini’s “Apollo and Daphne” at the Galleria Borghese.

6a. Third interlude: Bernini’s “Beata Ludovica Albertoni” in Trastevere.

6b. The Spanish Steps and the view of Rome from the French Academy at Villa Medici.

This work is dedicated to the city of Rome, Italy.


released April 3, 2017

Boston Modern Orchestra Project
Gil Rose, music director

Recorded in Jordan Hall at the New England Conservatory
June 30, 2013

Joel Gordon, audio engineer and editor

Music by Thomas Oboe Lee

Photo credit: Thomas Oboe Lee



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Thomas Oboe Lee Cambridge, Massachusetts

Thomas Oboe Lee was born in China in 1945. He lived in São Paulo, Brazil, for six years before coming to the United States in 1966. After graduating from the University of Pittsburgh, he studied composition at the New England Conservatory and Harvard University. He has been a member of the music faculty at Boston College since 1990.
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