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John Corigliano

Publisher: G. Schirmer

The Mannheim Rocket (2000),
Publisher
G Schirmer Inc
Category
Orchestra
Sub Category
Large Orchestra
Year Composed
2000
Duration
11 Minutes


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Programme Note
John Corigliano The Mannheim Rocket (2000),
Composer note:

I first heard The Mannheim Rocket in a music history course in my freshman year at college. The term was used to describe a musical technique perfected by the Mannheim Orchestra in the 18th century in which a rising figure (a scale or arpeggio) speeded up and grew louder as it rose higher and higher (hence the term “rocket”).

As a young music student, however my imagination construed a very different image — that of a giant 18th-century wedding-cake-rocket, commandeered by the great Baron Von Münchausen, and its marvelous journey to the heavens and back.

It was this image that excited me when I was asked to write a work for the Mannheim Orchestra: I knew I had to recreate the rocket of my young imagination and travel with it through its adventures.

And so this ten minute work begins with the scratch of a match and serpentine 12-tone fuse that sparkles with light and fire. The ignition leads to a slow heaving as the giant engine builds up steam. The “motor” of the rocket is a very low, very slow “Alberti bass,” the accompaniment pattern that has served as the motor of so many classical pieces.

To get started, I included a quote from one of the originators of the “Mannheim Rocket,” Johann Anton Wenzel Stamitz (1717-57). The stately opening of his Sinfonia in Eb (La Melodia Germanica No. 3) uses a scalar “rocket” to lift our heavy structure and starts it on its way.

This is the first in a series of quotes as the rocket rises and moves faster and faster, climbing through more than two hundred years of German music, finally breaking though a glass ceiling to float serenely in heaven.

There the rocket and crew are serenaded by tranquil “Music of the Sphere.” But what comes up must come down, and with a return of the opening fuse-music, the descent begins.

The rocket accelerates as flashes of the ascent- backwards — mark the fall. Just before the inevitable crash, Wagner tries to halt things, but the rocket is uncontrollable: even he cannot stop it. After a crunching meeting with terra firma the slow heaving and Alberti-bass-motor die away as we hear a fleeting memory of heaven, and, finally, a coda composed of a Mannheim Rocket.

— John Corigliano


  • Ensemble
    Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra
    Conductor
    John Storgårds
    Ondine:
Performances
Date
Title
  • 29 SEP 2012
    Missoula, MT
    Missoula Symphony
    Darko Butorac, conductor

    Other Dates:
    30 September - Missoula, MT
  • 14 APR 2012
    Allentown, PA
    Allentown Symphony Orchestra
    Diane Wittry, conductor

    Other Dates:
    15 April - Allentown, PA
  • 02 SEP 2009
    Hoyerswerda, Germany
    Neue Lausitzer Philharmonie Görlitz
    Evan Christ, conductor

    Other Dates:
    3 September - Bautzen, Germany
    4,8 September - Görlitz, Germany
    5 September - Zittau, Germany
    6 September - Kamenz, Germany
  • 09 AUG 2008
    Cabrillo Music Festival
    Santa Cruz, CA
    Cabrillo Festival Orchestra
    Marin Alsop, conductor
  • 19 OCT 2006
    Detroit, MI
    Detroit Symphony Orchestra
    Kwamé Ryan, conductor

    Other Dates:
    20,21 October - Detroit, MI
  • 06 OCT 2006
    Indianapolis, IN
    Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra
    Kwamé Ryan, conductor

    Other Dates:
    7 October - Indianapolis, IN
  • 28 SEP 2006
    Dallas, TX
    Dallas Symphony
    Kwamé Ryan, conductor

    Other Dates:
    29,30 September - Dallas, TX
    1 October - Dallas, Tx
  • 29 JUN 2006
    Denmark
    Tivoli Symphony Orchestra

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