Falling Angels

Poem for Orchestra

Melinda Wagner

Performing Ensemble: Orchestra
Duration: 14:00
Publisher: Theodore Presser Company
Print Status: Rental

Quick Overview

Music is never really about things that can be described with words; music just is. And the adventures to which this delightful art form treats us, as we listen on, are really not about anything that could happen in the world, but about the exploration and potential of ideas concerning sound. Sometimes, if we are lucky, these adventures will be indescribably moving.

Although its title is certainly evocative of a specific image, "Falling Angels" is not meant as program music, nor does it attempt to tell a story in terms of anything in the world of words. Yet, its inspiration may have come, in part, from the dark irony implied by the idea of angels, not fallen, but falling-a vision of celestial beings losing their immunity to gravity, tumbling in somersaults to earth. The somewhat eccentric bumps and knocks heard in the middle of the piece, and certainly its final measures, might be suggestive of such a journey. Otherwise, "Falling Angels," and the earthward motion it implies, is perhaps a strange title for a piece whose melodies, background texture, and dramatic curve often seem to strive upward! Indeed, the piece tells its own particular story, one which concerns only the notes we hear and where they happen to take us.

Cast in one movement, "Falling Angels" begins with a slow introduction-a melancholy tune played by a single cello. Intensity increases as the other instruments join, and, moments later, a brief fanfare for solo trumpet announces the main body of the work: a broad, majestic wash with plenty of chimes and percussion (this section returns near the end of the work). The music which follows, initially quiet and scherzolike, signals the beginning of a development. Here, single held pitches, first heard in the strings and later in the trumpets, strive ever upward. These "pedals" are accompanied by increasingly fanciful ornaments, ascending flourishes, and sharp percussive chords. A dramatic climax is finally reached, and as the music gradually melts back into softer tones, the familiar cello melody from the opening returns, now joined briefly by a single viola.

After a kind of reflex "winding up," the plateau of the work is reached. Played high in the strings, the simple melody of this section (a rising, then falling fourth) is at first canonic; its strains are occasionally punctuated by delicate crotales and bells. The canon serves as a sort of musical "roundhouse," enabling the piece to turn around on itself. Indeed, it is at once a place of repose for what is has come before, and an anticipation of what will come. This next step. as it turns out, is actually a return to familiar ground: the fleeting trumpet fanfare and majestic string melody first heard in the beginning of the piece.

An eccentric coda follows, and, just as the music finally seems to retreat, the piece ends with a bang-a nudge in the ribs.

"Falling Angels" is dedicated, with gratitude, to Daniel Barenboim and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Scores & Parts

Falling Angels - Full Score - Study

Additional Information

Commission Commissioned for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra by the Ernst and Young Emerging Composers Fund.
Composition Date 1993
Orchestration 3(Picc.) 3(E.H.) 3(B.Cl.) 3(Cbsn.) - 4 3 3 1; Timp. Perc. Pno. Cel. Hp. Str.
Premiere 4th February, 1993. Chicago Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Daniel Barenboim.

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