Longing for Your Return

"Longing for Your Return" by Steven Amundson (2004)

The Evergreen Symphony of Taiwan commissioned Steven Amundson to compose Longing for Your Return in the summer of 2004, and it was given its premiere in September of that year. The commission stipulated that he base the work on a Taiwanese folk song, after which the piece is named.

The original folk song, entitled Longing for Your Return, is by an anonymous composer. It was written in the 1940s, when many Taiwanese were drafted by the Japanese Army to fight in Southeast Asia. Long tours of duty and an increasingly powerful Allied front brought anxiety to many Taiwanese families, who feared the arrival of officers to their door bearing bad news. The folk song was sung as an outlet for this anxiety – an expression of hope and “longing” for the safe return of loved ones fighting in a war far from home. 

The piece begins with solo oboe and horn singing a “calling” motive, as if sending feelings of hope to the loved ones in harm's way. The solo viola plays an original theme that later serves as a counterpoint to the folk song theme. Solo flute hints at the Taiwanese song before handing it in its entirety to the violins. A transition to the major mode provides a more Oriental quality through the use of pentatonic accompaniment in harp, bells, and xylophone. The woodwinds present a derivation of the folk song theme representing dreams of happily reunited families. The music winds down and, over a pedal point on the dominant, the “calling” motive is heard in horn, echoed in muted trumpet. The orchestral texture thickens over a large crescendo, culminating with a fortissimo statement of the folk song. The work closes with a string canon on the first theme, while solo woodwinds sing portions of the folk song. In the final chord, a lonely “longing” interval of a ninth remains unresolved.

3222/4231/ timp + 3 perc (triangle, wind chimes, cym, sus cym, chimes, Glock, xyl), harp, strings


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