Psalm - A Song of Ascents

Robert Saxton (1953)

Psalm - A Song of Ascents 1992

1111/1110/perc/str(1.1.1.1.1)
Duration 
15
Solist 
Commissioner 
Publisher 

The shape and sound of Psalm - A Song of Ascents were in my mind long before the title, and when I began work on the score in September 1992 it became clear that the piece was not so much a concerto as a poem for solo trumpet and small orchestra. When John Wallace requested some years ago that I write him a work I thought continually about the striking images and various roles of the trumpet in the Bible and in much great painting; there are ceremonial, celebratory, and more bellicose uses, all the way from the synagogue ram’s horn - or shofar- to the trumpets of angels. The title which I decided on eventually refers to some of the later psalms which, in the King James version, are called Songs of Degrees and in the Revised Versions, Songs of Ascents. I interpreted this as a spiritual (rather than as a literal) ascent, and as I wished to exploit both the singing and the more agile, dancing aspects of the trumpet, the idea of a textless psalm seemed appropriate.

The music unfolds in three sections which outline a circle of ascending fifths, from E to A. The first part is slow and begins with solo trumpet and bells, gradually increasing in speed and flowing into the central section, an allegro moderato which itself accelerates; both soloist and orchestra share material as the more lyrical music is transformed into the dance of the third section, which begins after a passage for the trumpet alone. This also traces an overall accelerando which, after reaching a loud climactic point, resolves onto a sustained coda which closes the piece in tranquil mood.

Robert Saxton

Performances 
23.1.93 Barbican Hall, London: John Wallace / London Sinfonietta / Lothar Zagrosek
3.12.08 Oxford: Oxford University Sinfonietta
15.6.12 Civic Hall, Stratford-upon-Avon: Simon Desbrulais / Orchestra of the Swan / David Curtis
11.11.13 Holywell Music Rooms, Oxford: Ensemble Isis
1
Flute
1
Oboe
1
Clarinet
1
Bassoon
1
Horn
1
Trumpet
1
Trombone
1
Percussion
1
Violin
1
Violin II
1
Viola
1
Cello
1
Double bass
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