Splendid Ascent (2018)

Instrumentation: orchestra

Duration: 5:43

Commissioned by Denver Young Artist Orchestras

Premiered by the Conservatory Orchestra of the Denver Young Artist Orchestras; May 6, 2018 in Denver, Colorado.


Splendid Ascent is a short, energetic, fanfare-like work which creates a long arc in pitch and intensity from the beginning of the piece to the end. The form is articulated by alternating sections consisting of three basic textures:  rising fanfare gestures; a series of repeated-note echoes of shifting, overlapping instrumental colors; and long, lyrical melodies over a bed of short motives in quick imitation. The harmony is mostly diatonic, based on a polychord of C-major/d-minor, while the repeated-note echoes are more atonal and obscure, acting almost as an afterglow.

“Reimagining” of existing works is a popular trend with current classical concert music composers, such as Max Richter and others. In this case, I chose to reimagine a work of my own, taking the third movement (entitled Keyed Up) of the Concerto for Saxophone quartet and wind ensemble and reinterpreting it for full symphony orchestra. This brought up several challenges, including how to integrate the solo ensemble of a virtuoso saxophone quartet into the orchestra and how to adapt idiomatic wind writing to string technique. In addition, the warmth, harmonic richness, and extreme range of the strings added new compositional possibilities beyond a mere note-for-note rearrangement. I like to think of Splendid Ascent as a musical “blast of enthusiasm” or a striving for a better future. In the latter sense, it is especially appropriate that the first performance of this piece be given by talented young people.