Symphony No. 8 .​.​. City of Light (2011)

by Thomas Oboe Lee

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In the year 2010, my wife Kristin Beckwith and I went to Paris twice, the first time in May and the second time in December right after Christmas.

The weather was magnificent in May. Our friends Seph and Roger met us there. Being long-time veterans of Paris, they took us all over the city: Le Marais, the Left Bank, Montmartre, Sacré Coeur, Père LaChaise cemetery, Avenue des Champs-Élysées, Jardin du Luxembourg, Jardin des Tuileries, Notre Dame cathedral, Eiffel Tower, the flea market at Porte de Clignancourt, the canal at Saint Martin, etc. Since the weather was so great we basically stayed outside the entire two weeks. My wife Kris said that we had to return next again to Paris to go inside the museums. So we did.

The weather in Paris after Christmas was very damp and chilly. So we did indoor activities: Le Louvre, Musée D’Orsay, Palais Garnier, etc. We even attended a beautiful performance of Swan Lake by the Paris Opera Ballet at L’Opéra Bastille. I should also mention that on both occasions I met up with a former student of mine from Berklee, Joe Makholm. He makes a living in Paris playing jazz piano. Joe got us a gig at the Swan Bar in Montparnasse. On the first occasion we did it as a trio with a French bass player. I played jazz flute. On the second occasion, we did it as a duo. Playing jazz in Paris? You can’t beat that!!!

Early this year, Steven Lipsitt and I had a chat about my writing a new work for the Boston Classical Orchestra. My last work for the BCO was a piano concerto with Robert Levin as soloist. I told Steven that this time I wanted to write a symphony. He said, “Sure. Go ahead.” I told him it would be about Paris. He said he would put Mozart’s Paris Symphony on the same program. I said, “Fabulous!”

Symphony No. 8 ... City of Light (2011) is in five movements.

1. La Seine ... Presto, Moderato
2. Basilique du Sacré-Coeur ... Largo
3. Palais Garnier ... Allegro, Trio
4. Avenue des Champs-Élysées ... Allegro
5. Musée du Louvre ... Largo, Moderato

This work is dedicated to my wife and muse, Kristin Beckwith.


released April 3, 2017

Boston Modern Orchestra Project
Gil Rose, music director

Recorded in Jordan Hall at the New England Conservatory
January 22, 2014

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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