Remembering “Night Fall”

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I had leveraged a bad gig for the opportunity to solo–and compose the piece I soloed on–with the Washington Metropolitan Philharmonic. That opportunity finally arrived in 2014. I had worked feverishly the months before. It was to feature the flugelhorn, trumpet and piccolo trumpet, and because of the dark timbre of the flugel, I decided to call it Night Passages. Each movement would embody some aspect of night.

The flugel would lead us into the night with “Night Fall,” which begins with overlapping melodies and some shimmering figuration, depicting a spectacular sunset. The introductory lyrical theme, played on flugelhorn, features the downward melodic interval of a third. This opening theme gets lower and the accompaniment gets darker until “stars” begin to appear. Then the main theme of this movement appears, which originally began as a melody written for my son, who plays violin, as a kind of lullaby. The cadenza, normally an unaccompanied part of a solo composition, here is accompanied by harp. This effect is intended to evoke an ancient poet punctuating his verse with the strumming of a hand-held harp. Although I did not directly borrow from his work, Vaughan William’s Lark Ascending was an inspiration for this movement. In addition, much of the material is derived from Dizzy Gillespie’s “Night in Tunisia” and J. S. Bach’s “Gute Nacht, o Wesen,” the eighth part of his Cantata 64. And actually, the melodic material from these two pieces, as well as the opening theme of this movement, gets reused throughout the other two movements.

I don’t have a recording of the orchestrated version of this piece, but here is a later version with Dr. Ina Mirtcheva Blevins playing the piano reduction.

 

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