Adagio for Winds and Organ

In 2004, I was finishing my undergrad work.  At the same time, the long-time director of bands at the university, Ray Lichtenwalter, was retiring.  As a tribute to him, I composer my first work for band.  It is in the style of a Brucknerian adagio with long phrases and a slow development.

Originally, I planned on making this the slow movement of a larger symphony.  However, that symphony never came to fruition (though two other movements do exist).

This does show some of my earliest ideas about wind band orchestration such as grouping the Flügelhorns with the tuba ensemble, a strong contingent of low clarinets, and prominent double reeds.

  • 2 Flutes,
  • 2 Oboes
  • English Horn
  • 3 B-flat Clarinets
  • Bass Clarinet
  • Contra-Alto Clarinet
  • Contrabass Clarinet
  • 2 Alto Saxophones
  • Tenor Saxophone
  • Baritone Saxophone
  • 2 Bassoons
  • Contrabassoon
  • 4 Horns
  • 2 C Trumpets
  • 2 Tenor Trombones
  • Bass Trombone
  • 2 Flügelhorns
  • 2 Euphoniums
  • Bass Tuba
  • Contrabass Tuba
  • Organ.

Der Totentanz

In the fall of 2003, a friend and I decided to have a challenge.  We were both to write a composition using only the lowest of the woodwinds.  My friend never completed his project (in fact, I don’t even know if he ever started!), but my work is one of my favorite chamber works.

I was curator of the school’s Contrabass Sarrusophone and Bass Saxophone, while my friend had all the school’s Contra Clarinets.  Getting a performance would be doable.

Ultimately, the work was score for the following ensemble:

  • Bass Clarinet
  • Contra-Alto Clarinet
  • Contrabass Clarinet
  • Tenor Saxophone
  • Baritone Saxophone
  • Bass Saxophone
  • 2 Bassoons
  • Contrabassoon/Contrabass Sarrusophone

On the day of performance, the Bass Saxophone was unusable.  I had always planned on using a Sarrusophone instead of a Contrabassoon (I personally played the part).

After the performance, the conductor, who was the school’s long-time director of wind studies said it was the absolute hardest piece of music he had ever conducted due to the ensemble.

I further took the score and a recording of the performance to a masterclass with the composer David Maslanka, who in turn gave it the best praise of any work of mine to date:

“Had John Williams used this ensemble, Star Wars would have been a better movie.”

Sadly, I cannot find the recording of the piece from it’s 2004 performance.

I have also done some revisions to the work including altering some of the instrumentation so that it can be played by 2 Bass Clarinets, Contrabass Clarinet, Tenor Saxophone, 2 Baritone Saxophones, and 3 Bassoons.

Der Totentanz is now for sale at Sheet Music Plus: