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About this Piece

Composed: 2000

Length: 11 minutes

Orchestration: 3 flutes, 3 oboes, 3 clarinets, 3 bassoons, 4 horns, 4 trumpets, 4 trombones, tuba, timpani (2 players), percussion (antique chimes, bass drum, chimes, Chinese cymbal, glockenspiel, suspended cymbals, tam-tam, triangle), harp, and strings

First Los Angeles Philharmonic


Christopher Rouse is a passionate and powerful voice in American music creating works of exceeding craft and emphatic emotion. A native of Baltimore, Rouse came to international attention in the '90s with a series of large-scale orchestral pieces, including two symphonies and seven concertos. The Trombone Concerto, commissioned by the New York Philharmonic for its 150th anniversary, won the 1993 Pulitzer Prize in music and his Concert de Gaudí, a guitar concerto for Sharon Isbin, won the 2002 Grammy Award for "Best Contemporary Classical Composition."

There is not one way to describe Rouse's music. Like Stravinsky, he seems to reinvent himself every few years. His works from the '80s are generally kinetic and loud. Rouse describes his orchestral piece Gorgon (1984) as" a work of exorcistic rage." His percussion piece Bonham (1988), is "an ode to rock drumming," and was inspired by the raucous sound of the late Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham.

Rouse's works from the early '90s, the Trombone Concerto in particular, dwell unflinchingly on the subject of death. The musicians of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, where Rouse served as Composer in Residence, facetiously dubbed him "Mr. Sunshine." Rapture, however, is among the works through which Rouse seemed to turn a corner: "I figured that since I had been writing about death for the last five years, I was going to turn my attention elsewhere," he quips in a recent interview. Rouse provided the following program note for the work:

"I completed Rapture at my home in Pittsford, New York on January 9, 2000. Commissioned by the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, it is dedicated to that orchestra's music director, Mariss Jansons.

"It should be noted that the title of this score is not 'The Rapture;' the piece is not connected to any specific religious source. Rather, I use the word 'Rapture' to convey a sense of spiritual bliss, religious or otherwise. With the exception of my Christmas work, Karolju, this is the most unabashedly tonal music I have composed. I wished to depict a progression to an ever more blinding ecstasy, but the entire work inhabits a world devoid of darkness - hence the almost complete lack of sustained dissonance. Rapture also is an exercise in gradually increasing tempi; it begins quite slowly but throughout its eleven-minute duration proceeds to speed up incrementally until the breakneck tempo of the final moments is reached. Although much of my music is associated with grief and despair, Rapture is one of a series of more recent scores - such as Compline (1996), Kabir Padavali (1997), and Concert de Gaudí (1998) - to look 'towards the light.'"

-- Christopher Anderson-Bazzoli is an Emmy-nominated composer and has also served as the Los Angeles Philharmonic Publications Assistant.