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SYMPHONY NO. 2 for concert band

Symphony No. 2 by Frank Ticheli. Hear streaming audio on this page. Suitable for college bands, 21 minutes duration, Grade 6.

Note: The movements may be played separately: movement 1: grade 6; movement 2: grade 6; movement 3: grade 5


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Hear a complete performance in stereo streaming audio using (& requiring) QuickTime 4 or newer:

  • Hear a complete performance of Symphony No. 2 -
    Movement 1, "Shooting Stars"
  • Hear a complete performance of Symphony No. 2 -
    Movement 2, "Dreams Under A New Moon"
  • Hear a complete performance of Symphony No. 2 -
    Movement 3, "Apollo Unleashed"

Performance of movements 1 and 2 by the FSU Wind Symphony conducted by James Croft, recorded at the the 2003 WASBE 11th Conference in Jönköpíng, Sweden, from Mark Custom Recording Service, www.markcustom.com

Performance of movement 3 by the USC Thornton Wind Ensemble, reading session conducted by the composer

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Scroll down for program notes & instrumentation


The symphony's three movements refer to celestial light -- Shooting Stars, the Moon, and the Sun.

Although the title for the first movement, "Shooting Stars," came after its completion, I was imagining such quick flashes of color throughout the creative process. White-note clusters are sprinkled everywhere, like streaks of bright light. High above, the Eb clarinet shouts out the main theme, while underneath, the low brasses punch out staccatissimo chords that intensify the dance-like energy. Fleeting events of many kinds are cut and pasted at unexpected moments, keeping the ear on its toes. The movement burns quickly, and ends explosively, scarcely leaving a trail.

The second movement, "Dreams Under a New Moon," depicts a kind of journey of the soul as represented by a series of dreams. A bluesy clarinet melody is answered by a chant-like theme in muted trumpet and piccolo. Many dream episodes follow, ranging from the mysterious, to the dark, to the peaceful and healing. A sense of hope begins to assert itself as rising lines are passed from one instrument to another. Modulation after modulation occurs as the music lifts and searches for resolution. Near the end, the main theme returns in counterpoint with the chant, building to a majestic climax, then falling to a peaceful coda. The final B-flat major chord is colored by a questioning G-flat.

The finale, "Apollo Unleashed," is perhaps the most wide-ranging movement of the symphony, and certainly the most difficult to convey in words. On the one hand, the image of Apollo, the powerful ancient god of the sun, inspired not only the movement's title, but also its blazing energy. Bright sonorities, fast tempos, and galloping rhythms combine to give a sense of urgency that one often expects from a symphonic finale. On the other hand, its boisterous nature is also tempered and enriched by another, more sublime force, Bach's Chorale BWV 433 (Wer Gott vertraut, hat wohl gebaut). This chorale -- a favorite of the dedicatee, and one he himself arranged for chorus and band -- serves as a kind of spiritual anchor, giving a soul to the gregarious foreground events. The chorale is in ternary form (ABA'). In the first half of the movement, the chorale's A and B sections are stated nobly underneath faster paced music, while the final A section is saved for the climactic ending, sounding against a flurry of 16th-notes.

My second symphony is dedicated to James E. Croft upon his retirement as Director of Bands at Florida State University in 2003. It was commissioned by a consortium of Dr. Croft's doctoral students, conducting students and friends as a gesture of thanks for all he has given to the profession.



As stated in the Program Notes, the three movements of Symphony No. 2 bear programmatic titles that refer to celestial light -- Shooting Stars, the Moon, and the Sun.

These programmatic titles, and the images they evoke, are useful in identifying the overall expressive mood of each movement, but they should not be over-interpreted or taken too literally. Instead, they should serve merely as jumping off points into a world that transcends such tangible references.

More importantly, my symphony is a piece of music -- a work whose three movements differ dramatically in their expressive content, but which are nonetheless bound together tightly by carefully wrought melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic relationships. In short, the work's most important messages are musical ones.


Form: Quasi Rondo

A (mm. 1-17) 

Three important ideas are introduced: 1.) The main theme, shouted out by the Eb clarinet, and by the alto saxophone a 12th below; 2.) a series of rapidly ascending "rocket-like" diatonic clusters in the muted trumpets, colored by chimes glissandi; and 3.) a series of syncopated, dance-like staccatissimo chords in the low brasses.

This opening material establishes the bright, intense tone of the entire movement. The dynamic indications play an extremely important role in enhancing this quality, and also help to preserve textural transparency. For example, the muted trumpets must rigorously observe their fp indications so that the sustained portions of their notes do not distract from the statements of the main theme. The meticulous articulation indications are equally important, contributing greatly to the movement's energetic, dance-like quality.

B (mm. 18-34)

The lyrical B-theme, comprised of triplet quarter-note chords, is in direct contrast to the more aggressive main theme. Its lyrical quality, however, is challenged and opposed by brief interjections - reminders of the more aggressive main theme. Again, the dynamics play a crucial role in allowing the various opposing ideas to take turns occupying the foreground.

A (mm. 35-43)

The main theme returns in a shortened, slightly varied version.

C (mm. 44-61)

Bouncy, dance-like rhythms characterize this section. The first flute and oboe sound in the foreground in measures 44-46, while the brasses play a supportive role. Short phrases are suddenly stopped by the bongo drums at unexpected moments, giving an off-centered feeling to the music. This section builds to a climactic, but abrupt halt, paving the way for another reprise of the main theme.

A (mm. 62-66)

This is an even briefer reprise of the main theme, dissolving quickly into a restatement of the lyrical B-theme.

B (mm. 67-82)

The lyrical theme sounds first in the upper woodwinds before being handed to the brasses. Again, several reminders of the more aggressive main theme are interjected within this otherwise lyrical section.

D (mm. 83-102)

Although this section develops the material from the C-Section, it transforms the ideas sufficiently to earn its own separate identity. In measures 83-86, three layers sound in counterpoint: 1.) The foreground line, sounded by flute 1 and supported by flute 2 and piccolo; 2.) the leaping eighth-note passage, sounded by the oboes, Eb clarinet, and also saxophone; and 3.) the syncopated parallel sixths moving in stepwise motion, sounded by the clarinets and bassoon. The orchestration is changed and thickened at measure 89, and again at measure 95.

Transition (mm. 103-108)

The mood relaxes, marked by a thinner texture, softening dynamics, and a slackening tempo. Note also the gradual transformation from staccato to legato as indicated in measure 106 in the flute and vibraphone.

B (mm. 109-116)

The lyrical theme is now in its most relaxed state. Solo bassoon and clarinet take turns sounding in counterpoint with the theme, but they too are much calmer than the interjections sounding in previous B-sections.

Transition (mm. 117-137)

The calm mood of the B-theme is suddenly interrupted. The faster tempo returns. A repeated 16th-note pedal point in the vibraphone glues together a kaleidoscopic interplay of spiky chords and melodic fragments which bounce all around the ensemble. The energy increases...

C (mm.138-151)

Material from C-section bursts forth more aggressively than before.

A (mm. 152-157)

One final reprise of the A-section is intensified by tight, imitative shouts of the main theme (mm. 156-157).

Coda (mm. 158-171)

The coda is launched by a series of brass pyramid-chords and woodwind 16th-note passages. A dramatic descent in quarter-note triplets is brutally interrupted by an explosion of sound in the percussion at measure 168, answered by one final outburst of the main theme.


Form: Through-composed


This movement depicts a series of dreams or dreamlike events. I intended not only to express a dreamlike world, but also to open a door that would invite the listener to enter into that world. The movement's form is extremely free, but its freedom is balanced by intense motivic unity and economy of means.

A (mm. 1-18) Main theme

When I first composed this theme, I had in mind a quiet lake with no ripples, such as the kind I enjoyed growing up in Louisiana. The music meanders calmly -- like a boat on still water -- easing from Bb major to Db major and back again, colored by traditional blues notes. These "blue notes" form their own triad a minor third away from the home-key. (E.g., in the key of Bb Major, the "blue notes" -- flatted 3rd, 5th, 7th - make up a Db minor chord.) These two triads -- Bb Major and Db Minor -- combine to serve as the building blocks for several ideas in the piece, such as the ascending half-note chords in measures 12 to 15, and, more interestingly, the 32nd-note passage beginning in measure 15:
B (mm. 19-25) Chant theme

The chant theme is introduced by the piccolo and muted trumpet in parallel 10ths. (The trumpet implies Bb minor with flatted 5th, while the piccolo implies D minor with flatted 5th.) Their combined pitches form a blues scale, thus connecting the chant theme with the main theme:

Bb C Db D Eb E F G Ab

The two soloists must sound in equal balance with one another. The accompanying trombone glisses should be lazy and slow, like a relaxed sigh.

C (mm. 26-36) Introduction of minor 3rd "call-motive"

Instrumental color was foremost in my mind as I composed this particular dream event. The texture is somewhat complex, but the dynamic indications, when observed carefully, will enable individual colors - and specific color combinations - to come through clearly at given moments.

The call motive is introduced by the flutes in measure 27:

This motive is passed to others within this section, and takes on greater importance as the movement unfolds. Underneath the call motive, lines weave their way through the texture, never distracting from the foreground events. The music slips through a variety of vague tonal centers before settling back to the home-key of Bb Major.

D (mm. 41-84) Alto sax solo

The movement suddenly darkens and intensifies. A solo alto saxophone shouts out fiercely -- the call motive interwoven into the solo -- like a lone voice raging against injustice. Against this, the ensemble plays a series of forceful snap-rhythm chords. During this intense dialogue between soloist and ensemble, the ensemble members must obey the dynamics carefully, coming down to piano where indicated so that the soloist may be heard clearly. Likewise, the soloist must throw caution to the wind, playing as powerfully and aggressively as tastefully possible. Even as the soloist's dynamic level diminishes (mm. 52-58), the intensity level should remain very high.

The ensemble answers the soloists "outrage" at measure 62 with an intense chordal variation of the chant theme. Once again, the dream recedes and returns to the home key, and a brief recollection of the main theme.

E (mm. 84-112)

This fairly strict four-part canon represents a point of repose, like a healing dream. The call motive is now subtly interwoven into the more peaceful context of the canonic lines. Everything relaxes at measure 109. The harmon-muted trombone glissando represents a healing sigh of relief -- like a slow and calming exhalation.

F (mm. 113-146)

A fragment of the chant theme is developed to a great degree in this section, as ascending lines are passed throughout the ensemble. The conductor and ensemble must exercise great patience, allowing the music to grow slowly, the tempo to accelerate imperceptibly. It is tempting, but ill-advised to allow the music to accelerate beyond the tempo goal indicated (quarter note = 80). The ritardando at measure 146 should be quite dramatic, slowing almost to a halt just before the downbeat of measure 147.

Reprise (mm. 147-168)

The main theme returns majestically in counterpoint with the chant theme. The music swells to an enormous climax. A piece of the alto saxophone solo is recalled, now shouted at ffff in the horn and saxophones, then bounced back and forth between them and the trumpets. Once again, the music recedes. The final Bb major chord is colored by a questioning Gb, stated by the first clarinet.


Form: Quasi Sonata Form

Typical of many symphonic finales, this one is quite boisterous, but its driving energy is tempered and enriched by the use of Bach's Chorale BWV 433. A galloping line, first appearing at measure 47, and Bach's chorale, serve as contrasting themes in this sonata-like movement. The use of hemiola is quite extensive, and the accents play a crucial role in enhancing it.

Introduction (mm. 1-46)

Hard, spiky chords are exchanged between the muted trombones and low woodwinds, while the euphonium and tuba introduce a motive built from the first four notes of a minor scale. (This motive, having appeared in various manifestations in the previous two movements, is now used extensively in this movement.) The main theme, not appearing until measure 47, is foreshadowed at measure 31 in the clarinets and horns.

The building blocks for the movement's harmonic language are gradually revealed: a dominant-seventh chord combines with the tonic pitch, forming a five-note sonority (first heard as F A Bb C Eb -- later this cell is transposed). This sonority, together with the four-note minor scale motive, account for much of the pitch structure of the movement.


Main theme group (mm. 47-84)

The main theme is announced by the trumpets, built entirely from the five-note sonority mentioned above. Indeed, everyone in the ensemble plays some manifestation of this sonority. Even the low woodwind interruption at measure 58 is built entirely from this sonority. Several modulations occur as the music gathers strength, leading to a joyous outburst at measure 85.

Second theme group (103-133)

The tempo slackens, but only slightly. The first phrase of Bach's chorale appears nobly in the low brass, answered by fleeting reminders of the galloping main theme. The texture grows more complex at measure 119. An eleven-note ostinato runs through the clarinets and mallet instruments. Random pitches from the ostinato are reinforced by the others (e.g., the first trumpet, the stopped horns, and the fp stings in the upper woodwinds). Under this fabric, the chorale's second phrase is begun by the saxophones, low woodwinds, and horns, then handed back to the more forceful low brasses.

DEVELOPMENT (mm. 142-226)

The main theme returns, now up higher, in the flutes. Much of the material from the exposition is varied and developed. Ideas that had appeared independently in the exposition are now combined and juxtaposed (e.g., mm. 154-166 combines the rhythmic idea from m. 26, the rising line of mm. 60­62, and the general harmonic structure of mm. 85-100). The development proceeds as new material sounds along with older material. Suddenly, the second movement's chant theme is recalled (mm. 214­219). Then the first movement's main theme is recalled (mm. 220­226).


A false return of the main theme is sounded by the trumpet at measure 227, ushering in the final phrase of Bach's chorale, now stated majestically under a flurry of 16th notes.

Coda (mm. 250­269)

A violent timpani solo signals the coda. (The tom tom cues may be played only in the case of a weak set of timpani, or timid timpanist!) The work ends explosively, but not before one final shout of the first movement's main theme.


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