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Swan's Wing Press is the home for the music of Daniel Powers, including selected original compositions, arrangements, and a small (but growing) group of editions of music by other composers.
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Archive for the ‘Orchestral music’ Category

Concerto Piccolo

The Concerto Piccolo was commissioned by the Terre Haute Symphony Orchestra for their piccoloist, Kate Prouty, and was written during the summer and early fall of 2007.

The piccolo is an instrument that rarely gets to display the full range of its qualities. It is almost always used as a brilliant high-register instrument, adding a touch of sparkle and sometimes shrillness to even the fullest orchestral tutti passages. Its more expressive capabilities are almost totally ignored, as is the tone color of its lower notes. Faced with the task of writing a work featuring the piccolo as a solo instrument, I decided to make an effort to exploit all its capabilities, which is why the work begins with a lyrical theme in the piccolo’s low register.

The work is in one short movement, about 9 minutes long, and divided into a slow introduction followed by an Allegro. Actually, Introduction and Allegro, or something like it, would probably have been a more appropriate title. But I couldn’t resist the pun inherent in “Concerto Piccolo:” read one way, it implies a concerto for the piccolo, but literally translates to “small concerto.” (If I explain the joke, is it still funny?)

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piccolo and orchestra
0.2.2.2. / 2.2.0.0. / T 2P / harp / strings
8 minutes

  • OP-CP1 Conductor’s full score $20.00
  • OP-CP2 Set of orchestral parts $100.00
  • OP-CP3 Reduction for piccolo and piano (includes piccolo part) $15.00

Jessel–Parade of the Wooden Soldiers

LEON JESSEL (1871-1942) was known in his day as one of the most successful German composers of operetta and Singspielen. He was also a prolific composer of light orchestral works and salon pieces.

Jessel was born in the eastern German city of Stettin (now Szczecin, Poland), the son of a Jewish merchant and his American-born wife. At 17, he left school to pursue a career in the musical theater, and after several years of study, took a succession of conducting jobs in various German cities. From 1899 to 1911, he settled in Lübeck, where he was Kappelmeister at the Wilhelm Theater, after which he settled permanently in Berlin.

Jessel’s greatest success was the operetta Schwartzwaldmädel (Black Forest Girl), which premiered in Berlin in 1917. Within 10 years, it had run for 900 performances at the Komische Oper in Berlin as well as receiving nearly 6000 performances elsewhere in Germany and abroad. The 1921 operetta Die Postmeisterin (The Postmistress) was nearly as successful.

Jessel’s ideological outlook was conservative and nationalistic, which is reflected in his operettas. His second wife Anna joined the Nazi party in 1932, and Schwartzwaldmädel was reportedly a favorite of both Hitler and Himmler. Though a Jew by birth, Jessel had converted to Christianity in 1894, and fully expected to be accepted by the authorities even after the Nazis rose to power. Instead, performances of his music were banned in 1933, and he was forced out of all public positions. On December 15, 1941, he was arrested and tortured by the Gestapo, and died on January 4, 1942 in the Berlin Jewish Hospital. 

After the Nazi era ended, Jessel’s stage music began to be heard in Germany again. Outside of Germany, his best-known work by far is Die Parade der Zinnsoldaten, known in the English-speaking world as Parade of the Wooden Soldiers (although “tin soldiers” would be a more accurate translation), which was published as a piano piece in 1897, followed by a version for small theater orchestra in 1905.

This edition generally follows the 1905 orchestral version, with the addition of optional instrumentation to make the work playable by full symphony orchestra.

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  • OJ-PWS1 Score $12.50

  • OJ-PWS2 performance set (score and set of parts) $90.00

Duration: approx. 3 minutes
Orchestra set includes original instrumentation and expanded instrumentation.

  • original instrumentation: 1.1.2.1. / 2.2.1.0. / 3P / A Sax, T Sax (opt.) / banjo (opt.) / strings
  • expanded instrumentation: 2.p.2.2.bcl.2. / 4.3.3.1. / T 3P / A sax, T sax (opt) / banjo (opt.) / strings

Rachmaninoff; Vocalise

The manuscript of Rachmaninoff’s Vocalise, for voice and piano, is dated September 21, 1915, though it may have been sketched some years earlier. It was included in his 14 Songs, op. 34, as the last of the collection, even though calling it a “song” strains the definition of the term somewhat. A “Vocalise,” by definition, is a vocal work without text; the singer performs the melody on a sustained vowel sound, almost always “ah.” Though lacking a text, the Vocalise quickly became the most popular item in the set, and one of his most performed compositions, due the loveliness of the vocal melody.

The nature of the melody makes it easily adaptable to instrumental writing. It can be performed, without alteration (except for transposition), by almost any instrument. The accompanying texture, while rich, is carefully written with every element clearly defined, making it adaptable to larger instrumental combinations. Rachmaninov himself created two orchestral versions, one with soprano and one without. Many other composers have also made transcriptions for a variety of ensembles.

So why one more?

This transcription of Vocalise for cello and string orchestra was commissioned by the Terre Haute Symphony Orchestra for a concert featuring the string section in a program of shorter works. Kurt Fowler, the THSO’s principal cellist, has played Vocalise many times with piano, and when it was noticed that the piece would fit in well with the program for the rest of the concert, it was decided to ask me to handle the orchestration.

My version differs somewhat from other transcriptions that I’m aware of, in that it is through-composed. The original is in two large sections, both of which are repeated; my version, rather than simply repeating each section, is instead written continuously from beginning to end. This allowed me to orchestrate each section differently on the repeat. Each section begins with full strings the first time through, but on the repeat, the dynamic drops and the texture thins out to a group of solo strings, bringing the full orchestra back in gradually. In other words, my orchestration was tailor-made to Kurt’s interpretation of the piece, which I’d heard him perform several times with my wife accompanying him.

  • OR-V2 orchestra set (includes score and solo part) $75.00

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