Commissioned by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra for its principal trumpeter, Christopher Martin, Heimdall's Trumpet was completed in Baltimore, Maryland on January 21, 2012. The title of the work refers to the Nordic god Heimdall, whose blasts on his trumpet announce the onset of Ragnarok, the Norse equivalent of Armageddon.
Cast in four movements, the title of the piece refers properly to the finale, which attempts in a general way to depict these mythological events as I imagine them. The onset of Ragnarok occurs only at the very end of the work, in a very short orchestral fortissimo outburst followed by an extended silence. The first movement is declamatory in nature and gives way to a whirlwind scherzo that utilizes a variety of mutes for both the soloist and the orchestral brass section. The third movement is a largo that swings like a pendulum between sections of substantive dissonance and straightforward consonance. The aforementioned finale, more specifically dramatic and programmatic in nature, returns to the more aggressive world of the first movement.
The solo trumpet part requires much of the player, who must possess enormous technical prowess, including the ability to produce pedal tones at some length.
Heimdall's Trumpet calls for an orchestra consisting of three flutes (third doubling piccolo), three oboes, three clarinets, three bassoons (third doubling contrabassoon), four horns, three trumpets, three trombones, tuba, harp, timpani, percussion (three players), and strings. It lasts approximately twenty-two minutes.
© 2012 by Christopher Rouse
These program notes can be reproduced free of charge with the following credit:
Reprinted by kind permission of Christopher Rouse
"Count Heimdall's Trumpet as another Rouse success... this trumpet concerto melds solo pyrotechnics against a dramatic symphonic tapestry in especially graceful and compelling fashion... the slow movement is among his most lyrical inspirationsÉ among the finest of Rouse's works." (Click to read the entire article)
"Thursday's first performance not only bolstered Rouse's reputation as one of the most compelling American composers around.... makes you want to hold on to the roller coaster and enjoy the ride." (Click to read the entire article)
"...a deftly paced roller-coaster of a ride to the edge of the abyss... we feel that this musical journey is taking us somewhere we want to go. The final moments are tersely dramatictension building in the full orchestra, then the orchestra going silent as the soloist issues a final, clarion call. A lightening fast orchestral shriek and then silence sharp as a sword thrust, deep as a fatal wound. The audience allowed the silence to grow and blossom until Van Zweden lowered his arms before unleashing their applause and cheers. This is a concerto I would happily hear again and one that virtuoso orchestras will surely want to play." (Click to read the entire article)