Three Olympians shows strikingly assured writing for strings, with the central Aphrodite section reminiscent of Leonard Bernstein in its sweet yet angular melodic cast.”
South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Three Olympians for string orchestra was commissioned by The Conductors Institute, at which Boyer had previously been a student for three summers (1992-94). Boyer recorded the work twice at Abbey Road Studios: with the London Symphony Orchestra for his debut recording (2001), and then again with the London Philharmonic Orchestra for Naxos (released 2014).Three Olympians has had an active performance history among both professional and student string orchestras, and a significant record of broadcasts by classical radio stations throughout the United States and Europe. It is regularly featured on SiriusXM’s Symphony Hall channel.

Instrumentation

strings (minimum 6.5.4.3.1; larger preferred)

Movements

I. Apollo
II. Aphrodite
III. Ares

Duration

14:30

Composition Date and Commission

Composed 1999-2000
Commissioned by The Conductors Institute

Critical Acclaim

Three Olympians… must rank among Boyer’s finest pieces. It has great tunes and exploits the timbres of the string orchestra in a very fetching and vivid way…”
ClassicsToday.com

Three Olympians… demonstrates the composer’s orchestration gifts in a tour de force that evokes Apollo, Aphrodite, and, in a brilliant finale, Ares.”
Gramophone

Three Olympians (as in Greek gods, not sports figures) just might be the most impressive work here, both for the sonorous inventiveness of its strings-only scoring, with “modernistic” and textural effects such as snap pizzicatos, harmonics, and glissandos perfectly integrated into Boyer’s own tonal idiom, as well as for the distinction of its tunes, especially the lovely one in the central movement depicting Aphrodite.”
ClassicsToday.com

“Boyer’s 2000 score Three Olympians for string orchestra casts three children of the Greek god Zeus in appropriate sonic garb—boldly cinematic for Apollo, lyrical and atmospheric for Aphrodite, and stridently martial for Ares (the god of war).”
Tucson Citizen

View Performance History

— Premiered by The Conductors Institute Orchestra, numerous conductors, at Bard College, July 10-14, 2000
— Performed by the Claremont Ensemble, Peter Boyer, conductor, April 7, 2000
— Performed by the Henry Mancini Institute Orchestra, Peter Boyer, conductor, at Royce Hall, UCLA, August 18, 2000
— Performed by the Janus Orchestra, Peter Boyer, conductor, April 26, 2001
— Performed by the Greenville (S. Carolina) Symphony Orchestra, Edvard Tchivzhel, conductor, February 22 & 23, 2003
— Performed by the San Diego Chamber Orchestra, Donald Barra, conductor, January 19, 20 & 23, 2004
— Performed by the Santa Barbara Symphony, Gisèle Ben-Dor, conductor, January 24 & 25, 2004
— Performed by the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra, Miguel Harth-Bedoya, conductor, March 3–6, 2004; June 3 & 6, 2004
— Performed by the Rapid City (South Dakota) Central High School Chamber Orchestra, Bruce Knowles, conductor, at the American String Teachers Association National Conference, Albuquerque, New Mexico, February 29, 2008
— Performed by the Black Hills (South Dakota) Symphony Orchestra, Jack Knowles, conductor, April 12, 2008
— Performed by the North Atlanta High School Advanced Orchestra, Adrienne Thompson, conductor, October 23, 2008
— Performed by the South Carolina Music Educators Region IV All-State String Orchestra, Jesse Suggs, conductor, November 21, 2009
— Performed by 440hz, Strings Rotterdam, The Netherlands (ensemble without conductor), May 15, 2010
— Performed by the Orquesta Sinfónica Municipal de Cartago, Costa Rica, Norman Gamboa, conductor, May 23, 2010
— Performed by the Wichita High School East Symphony, Eric Crawford, conductor, April 13, 2011
— Performed by the Dulles High School Orchestra, Michael Isadore, conductor, October 13, 2011
— Performed (Apollo only) by the Pasadena Symphony, Tito Muñoz, conductor, January 12, 2013 (two performances)
— Performed (Apollo only) by the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra, Andrés Franco, conductor, March 21, 2013
— Performed by the Palo Alto Chamber Orchestra, Benjamin Simon, conductor, June 1, 2014
— Performed by the Boulder High School Orchestra, Katharine Mason, conductor, at the Colorado Music Educators Association Clinic/Conference, January 30, 2015
— Performed by the Plano High School Chamber Orchestra, Brian Coatney, conductor, October 7, 2015
— Performed by the Juilliard Pre-College String Ensemble, Shih-Hung Young, conductor, at the Peter Jay Sharp Theater, The Juilliard School, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, December 19, 2015
— Performed by the North Gwinnett High School (Suwanee, Georgia) Chamber Orchestra, Lauren McCombe, conductor, February 27, 2016
— Performed by the Dulles High School Honors String Orchestra, Michael Isadore, conductor, March 31, 2016
— To be performed by the Clark High School Orchestra, Brian Eaton, conductor, May 19, 2016
— Performed by the Clark High School Orchestra (Plano, Texas), Brian Eaton, conductor, May 19, 2016
— Performed by the Plano East Senior High School Orchestra, Jeremy Pillow, conductor, October 13, 2016
— Performed (Ares only) by the Oakton High School Orchestra (Vienna, Virginia), November 3 & 18, 2016
— Performed (Ares only) by the Wichita High School East Philharmonia, February 24, 2017
— Performed (Apollo only) by the North Gwinnett High School (Suwanee, Georgia) Chamber Orchestra, Lauren McCombe, conductor, May 9, 2017
— To be performed by the Marshall High School Statesmen Sinfonia, Catherine Bond, conductor, December 8, 2017

— Recorded by the London Symphony Orchestra, Peter Boyer, conductor, at Abbey Road Studios, London, January 2 & 3, 2001; released on compact disc by Koch International Classics (#3-7523-2), June 2001; re-mastered and reissued on compact disc (and digital download) by Propulsive Music (PRM-607), June 2007
— London Symphony Orchestra recording broadcast on dozens of radio stations throughout United States since its release; also broadcast in France (Radio France national broadcast), Germany, Belgium, and The Netherlands
— London Symphony Orchestra recording broadcast extensively on SiriusXM Satellite Radio, Symphony Hall Channel, beginning summer 2012
— Recorded by the London Philharmonic Orchestra, Peter Boyer, conductor, at Abbey Road Studios, London, June 17, 2013; released worldwide by Naxos in its American Classics Series (#8.559769), February 2014
— Naxos recording broadcast on more than 75 radio stations throughout the United States
— Honorable Mention, New England String Ensemble National Composers Competition, 2000

Read Program Note

This work was commissioned by the Conductors Institute, Harold Farberman, Artistic Director, for performance by its 30-plus conductors at Bard College in the summer of 2000. The commission request was for a work that had three contrasting movements or sections, which would call for different aspects of technique and approach from the conductors. In thinking about my interest in Greek mythology, I decided that creating three “mini-portraits” of Greek mythological figures would both fulfill this requirement and supply some general imagery on which to draw. Thus the word “Olympians” in the title is not be understood in the modern-day “athletic” sense of the word, but in the ancient Greek sense: an Olympian was a resident of Olympus, the home of the Greek gods. There were twelve Olympians, all “major deities.” The three which inspired the music in this case — Apollo, Aphrodite, and Ares — were all children of Zeus, but each had a different mother. Apollo is the most multi-faceted of these three, the god of reason and intelligence, music, prophecy, medicine, and the sun.

Of course, the musical portrayals of Apollo have been endless, with Stravinsky and Britten providing noteworthy (and daunting) 20th-century examples. For me, Apollo meant “classical” harmony and phrasing, and a great deal of energy. Aphrodite was the goddess of love and beauty, which to me unambiguously called for lyrical melody. Ares was the god of war, which to me translated as relentless rhythm, as well as a chance to exploit some of the more menacing effects of which strings are capable. The unison Gs in this movement are a nod to Holst’s famous portrayal of Mars (the Roman incarnation of Ares). This work is unabashedly tonal, straightforward, and hopefully a good deal of fun.