Chorale Fantasia - Symphonic Poem for Band
ItoMusic / Brain
Commissioned by Central Air Defense Force Band for its 25th Anniversary Concert
Premiered on 3 January 2002 by Central Air Defense Force Band, Mitsumasa Watanabe, Commander/Conductor.
During my high school years in Hamamatsu, I fell deeply in love with the music of J.S. Bach. As I frequently played his chorales, chorale preludes, and chorale fantasies on piano, I was drawn into Bach's beautiful musical structure.
A few months ago I performed Percy Grainger's arrangement of Bach's O Mensch, bewein' dein' Sunde gross, chorale prelude for organ (BWV622). It triggered an enduring memory of those high school years filled with gorgeous music. It dawned on me that recently I have not enjoyed such wonderful music. Since then, this chorale prelude continues to echo in my heart. And when I heard of the 25th anniversary of the Central Air Defense Force Band, I recalled attending their concert as a teenager. Perhaps that was my very first band concert.
It is a great honor to be asked to compose for their anniversary. "To celebrate", I believe, also means "pray and hope". My intent for the piece was to "pray and hope" for more peaceful world while reflecting back on great memories of my hometown by reciting the chorale.
The title of the chorale aptly states it all, "O mankind, mourn your great sins". The 20th century was filled with international disputes. Two world wars and non-stop global conflicts in no way made a harmonious era. With the hope for a more peaceful world in the 21st century, I composed "Pacem et gloriam pro nobis (Peace and Glory)" Overture for Band in 2001. Then, 9.11 took place. This terrorist attack on the World Trade Center perhaps marked the beginning of the 21st century. I was in dismay thinking that nothing will improve in the 21st century.
The introduction uses the BWV604 chorale, the same cantus firmus (plainchant) as BWV622. Then it evolves into various other musical structures. I have also used the trumpet call of judgment from my oratorio "The Seventh Seal" written in 1979 when I was a first year university student. At the end, the entire BWV622 chorale is stated. It is such a gorgeous chorale. (Pay close attention to harmonic timbre and non-harmonic tone colors when performing) The cryptic sounding ascending chromatic line in measure 300 perhaps represents the suffering of Christ.
Humanity can be cruel. The power of sin is represented by the huge, violent bass drum crescendo from measures 299 to 303. Use as many bass drums as possible to the point of drowning out the entire ensemble and dominating the hall. No matter how loud the bass drums might be, they will never equal the magnitude of mankind's sins. Cause the people to tremble in fear of that evil.
The tempo slows persistently towards the end. I hope everyone will find peace in the final beautiful E-flat major chord.
Flutes 1, 2
Bassoon 1, 2
Clarinet in Eb
Clarinet in Bb 1, 2, 3
Bass Clarinet in Bb
Alto Saxophone 1, 2
Trumpets in Bb 1, 2, 3, 4
Horns in F 1, 2, 3, 4
Trombone 1, 2, 3
String Bass (div.)
Percussion 1-4 - Glockenspiel, Xylophone, Tree Bells, Wind Chime, Suspended Cymbal, Sleigh Bells, Tam-tam, Bass Drum, Cymbal, Ratchet, Triangle, Antique Cymbal