Boss turned to the biblical tale to frame the three movements of his symphony.
“I tried to clarify the three movements as the crucifixion, the battle [of life and death] and the resurrection,” Boss said.
Regardless of religious beliefs or a person’s understanding of religion, Boss wanted the listener to go on a journey--their experience with the piece shaped by their own personal connections to the music.
“Different people bring in their beliefs and understanding of the world as they sit down and listen to it, and that determines how they listen to it,” he said. “[And] how they experience it will impact what they feel about it and the images they see or feel,” Boss said.
Boss portrayed the death of Jesus for the first movement, Homage, and was moved by feelings of betrayal, despair, suffering and death. The symphony begins with a clanging of percussion, and then introduces a distant and melancholy horn solo. The movement ebbs and flows—full bursts of sound giving way to exposed solo lines; an ominous low brass line building to a bombastic climax; before returning again to the haunting and lingering notes of the french horn.
“[In the first movement] I portrayed the death [of Jesus] — which really gives a powerful set of feelings,” Boss said. “If you’re not religious, it’s symbolizing hardship or suffering—things that are very real in society today.”
The second movement, Tocatta, is Boss’s interpretation of the war between heaven and sin, during the three days between the death and resurrection. For Boss, it’s a conflict between two opposing forces—the rhythmic introduction to the 2nd movement swells to a frantic flurry of instrumentation, a thrilling battle cry. The movement is a constant push and pull between moments of intensity and relief.
“The second movement was about war in those three days between death and resurrection,” Boss explained. “It could symbolize an obstacle that you’re trying to overcome.”
The symphony’s final movement, Interlude and Finale, is Boss’s portrayal of the resurrection, and he looked towards feelings related to victory and rebirth. The reflective interlude at the beginning of the movement transitions to the symphony’s soaring finale, a powerful and unrelenting crescendo leading to the final ringing notes.
“For the final movement, obviously I felt I needed to portray the resurrection. And whether that was a personal rebirth or a depiction of the resurrection—it eventually brings its way to a catharsis,” Boss said.