Little Moonhead

Three Tributaries inspired by Brandenburg Concerto No. 4 by J.S. Bach

Melinda Wagner

Duration: 00:13:16
Publisher: Theodore Presser Company
Print Status: Rental

Quick Overview

?Music,? according to Melinda Wagner, ?offers composers an immeasurably rich and generous sonic landscape in which to explore the ?life story? of each musical idea: its dramas, intrigues, joys and sorrows ? a life. I strive to find various and persuasive ways of moving through the resulting temporal narrative, and to traverse a wide spectrum of expression and color on the way. Ultimately, I want listeners to know me; I want them to hear that while I enjoy the cerebral exercise, I am led principally by my ear, and by my heart.? That performers, listeners and critics have all been touched by Melinda Wagner?s music was confirmed when she received the 1999 Pulitzer Prize for Music for her Concerto for Flute, Strings and Percussion, introduced by flutist Paul Lustig Dunkel in May 1998 with the Westchester (New York) Philharmonic. Her other honors include a Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship, an award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a Howard Foundation Fellowship, three ASCAP Young Composer Awards, resident fellowships from the MacDowell Colony and Yaddo, a Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Pennsylvania, and an honorary degree from Hamilton College.
Wagner was born into a musical family in Philadelphia in 1957, and showed musical gifts from an early age. She did her undergraduate work at Hamilton College in Clinton, New York, and received her master?s degree from the University of Chicago and her doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania; her composition teachers include Richard Wernick, Shulamit Ran, Jay Reise, George Crumb and Ralph Shapey. Wagner has taught at the University of Pennsylvania, Swarthmore College, Syracuse University and Hunter College, and lectured at many of the nation?s leading universities and conservatories. She has been Lehar Visiting Professor at the University of Pittsburgh and a Fellow at Williams College, and held residencies at the University of Texas at Austin and the Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, percussionist James Saporito, and their children.
Melinda Wagner?s recent premieres include Extremity of Sky, a piano concerto commissioned by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra that was premiered with Emanuel Ax (2003), the piano trio Romanze with Faux Variations (2004), an overture titled 57/7 Dash for the New York Pops (2004), Wick for the Empyrean Ensemble (2005), Whirl?s End for Orchestra (2005), the Trombone Concerto for New York Philharmonic principal Joseph Alessi (2006) and Scamp for the United States Marine Band (2007). Her current projects include a commissioned work for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra?s 2011-2012 season.
Melinda Wagner?s Little Moonhead is the fourth installment of the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra? four-year project ?The New Brandenburgs,? for which six eminent composers are providing companion works to Bach?s Brandenburg Concertos that use the same instrumentation and scale and whatever compositional elements the composer deems appropriate. Already premiered are A Brandenburg Autumn by Stephen Hartke (2006), Brandenburg Gate by Paul Moravec (2008) and Muse by Christopher Theofanidis (2008); compositions by Aaron J. Kernis and Sir Peter Maxwell Davies are still to come.
Wagner accepted the Fourth Brandenburg Concerto as her inspiration, but had no interest in writing a pastiche or imitation of Bach. What she did take from the original, however, were a satisfying formal plan ? rhythmically exuberant movements at beginning and end surrounding a reflective slow movement ? a clarity of texture, and a brightness of sonority inherent in Bach?s ensemble: two flutes, solo violin, strings and harpsichord, to which she made the decidedly modern addition of celesta (patented in 1886, 136 years after Bach died, by the Parisian harmonium builder Auguste Mustel). The work?s title ? Little Moonhead ? conflates the titles of its three movements: Little Prelude (Rills), Moon Ache and Fiddlehead. The composer said that Little Prelude (Rills) is ?a kind of anacrusis [upbeat]? to the work, moderate in tempo and liquescent in motion, a counterpart to the lilting scales and arpeggios of the Fourth Brandenburg. Wagner invented the evocative title Moon Ache for the second movement to suggest the music?s quiet, nocturnal melancholy. Fiddlehead (Wagner claims to be partial to nature titles; fiddlehead ferns are an occasional part of the Wagner family diet) is, she said, ?fast and furious, with lots of rosin flying around.?

Additional Information

Commission Commissioned by Orpheus as part of The New Brandenburgs, with funds proved by the Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust
Composition Date 2008
Orchestration Solo Vln; 2 Fl. Hps. Str.
Premiere March 20th, 2009. Susan Palma-Nidel, Susan Rotholz, Flutes, Ren


Little Prelude (with Rills)
Moon Ache

Score Preview