Angels and Fireflies for solo flute and string orchestra (2011)
- Staff Pick
“Striking and evocative music.”
The tragedy of 9/11 has inspired many works of art over the years. and this striking piece really earns its keep amongst them. The whole outlook of the music, both harmonically and via the fluidity of the flute writing, paints a moving landscape that is a pictorial as well as an emotional response to the tragic events.
On a practical level, the work is challenging but approachable. with the mostly block textures of the string parts giving the flute space to add unexpected lyrical sonorities over the top. There is rhythmic complexity in the more expressive slower sections and these are interspersed with flashes of faster and more technical writing. The range of notes used is surprisingly modest and contemporary effects are confined to flutter tonguing. Within reach rather than unattainable this would be ideal material for university and college ensembles to explore.
Pieces like this make me wish I had a handy string orchestra to play with regularly; there are plenty of well-written contemporary works out there which, for mostly economic reasons are not performed nearly often enough. Angels and Fireflies can be played on the flute or the recorder, and as a result the flute part is not especially demanding, or high, but it is idiomatically written and emotionally effective. Written in 2011, but first published more recently by Composers Edition, the piece has been recorded twice, once on recorder (by dedicatee John Turner) and once on flute (Victoria Daniel), both with the Manchester Sinfonia on the Metier label.
The piece commemorates 9/11, and the title refers to the fireflies that the composer saw appearing over the site where United Airlines flight 93 crashed in Pennsylvania, during a visit in 2006. Premiered by Tadeu Coelho in North Carolina on 11 Sept 2011, the performance marked the 10th Anniversary of the 9/11 disaster and was broadcast live to the Imperial War Museum North in Manchester. The music is both poignant and poetic. Particularly engaging are the duos between the flute and solo violins, with the strings acting almost as echoes of the flute’s line, as well as the haunting solo flute line that ends the piece. The harmonic language is chromatic and a tense, creating a captivating atmosphere. The solo line is balanced well with the ensemble, Malone always creating space for the parts to balance clearly. Rhythmic pulsations which appear and disappear in the strings help to add a sense of forward movement, combined with accented held chords. The spaciousness of some of the chord voicings are enormously appealing, enabling static moments to create a strong emotional impact. This is economical music; it is not overly complex or dense, but each note has a reason for its existence and placement, and the sense of simplicity allows the ideas space to take their place within a logical and clear structure which combines four images—Mountain, Fireflies, Angels and The Transambiguation of the Evening.
In one continuous movement, slow sections are interspersed with more energetic outbursts and as the piece unfolds I felt I detected the influence of Ives, as well as a quotation from a folk melody, combined in a way that feels entirely new and sincere, creating a new interpretation of the American landscape.
This is an appealing work which packs a lot into its 13-minute duration and deserves to be more frequently heard. If anyone has a string orchestra to hand and wants to try this out, get in touch
Performance duration (approx): 13'
Difficulty level, roughly compared to ABRSM exam grades. 0 is beginner, 9 is advanced (beyond grade 8).
- Part 1: Flute
- Part 2: Violin
- Part 3: Violin
- Part 4: Violin
- Part 5: Violin
- Part 6: Viola
- Part 7: Viola
- Part 8: Cello
- Part 9: Cello
- Part 10: Double Bass
Publisher: Composers Edition
Publisher's reference: CE-KM1AAF1-PR-S-SP
Our Stock Code: 1455724
Media Type: Paperback (64 pages [score])