• Gunther Schuller
  • On Winged Flight (1989)

  • Associated Music Publishers Inc (World)
  • concert band; 3 vc
  • 13 min

Programme Note

Composer note:

On Winged Flight, a divertimento for band, was composed on a commission from the United States Air Force Band, is dedicated to their conductor, Lieutenant Colonel James Michael Bankhead. The premiere took place on April 3, 1989 at the annual American Bandmasters Association Conference at the Florida State University in Tallahassee. In contrast to some of my other band or wind ensemble works, my Divertimento is — as the name implies — a more lighthearted work. Just as in Mozart's Divertimenti, it has its "serious" moments, even "serious" movements. The five-movement composition begins with a sprightly Vivace introductory movement setting the overall lively tone of the work with its cascading woodwind figures, brassy syncopations, and unexpected contrasts. The second movement sets a solo alto saxophone in reiterative lyric phrases against a delicate pointillistic web-like woodwind, muted brass, and light percussion background. The mood becomes more serious in the third movement, Nocturno; a somber rather dark-colored piece, featuring instruments such as bass and contrabass clarinets, contrabassoon, and low brass. Here too, I was able to use the three cellos that are an unusual feature of the Air Force Band's instrumentation. The fourth movement exploits the virtuosic capacities of the wind ensemble, additionally bringing in the colors of piano and harp. The last movement carries the following legend: "with a respectful bow to Messrs. Charles Ives, James Reese Europe, and Henry Fillmore." You may well ask, who is James Europe? You may even ask, who is Henry Fillmore, although the latter is today more remembered than the former. Europe is an unfortunately, and in my view, unjustifiably, forgotten black composer and conductor.

— Gunther Schuller