Ursa (1990)

Four Seasons for Contrabass and Orchestra

Duration:  20 minutes
Doublebass; 2(opt pic)+pic.222/2200/timp.2perc/hp.pf/str
Orchestral version may be performed with Cello or Doublebass Solo;
Piano Reduction may be performed with either Cello or Doublebass.

Commissioned by the National Endowment for the Arts

Premiere Performance:  November 29, 1990; San Antonio Symphony;
Gary Karr, Contrabass; Christopher Wilkins, Conductor

This attractive and breathtakingly virtuosic concerto is intended for youth and family concerts as well as for adult audiences.  As the title indicates, Ursa (Latin for “bear”) is programmatic.  Like Vivaldi’s famous violin concertos, Rodríguez’ Four Seasons are based on texts, here fragments from four children’s poems by Mary (Duren) Medrick.

Reviews:

…an involving programmatic soundscape whose inventively drawn imagery of a bear cub’s first year – from birth through hibernation and awakening at Spring’s thaw – could take its place beside the likes of Poulenc’s Babar.
                                                                       San Antonio Light

…one can “see” the music…The imagery is astounding…Being able to convey humor and the forces of nature side by side while showcasing an instrument that is not a natural solo star speaks well of his genius.
                                                                       San Antonio Express-News

…makes a strong case that the orchestra’s foundation instrument can also serve handsomely as one of its spires…a lyrical richly coloristic and wonderfully tender work…the orchestration is a model of clarity, transparency and iridescent color…In the lovely Winter movement (“Lull-A-Bear”), the contrabass’ velour pianissimo in the high register seemed altogether apt for Rodríguez’ gently rocking solo lines set against a glistening orchestral backdrop…a masterful example of the art that conceals art.
                                                                         Musical America