Music of the Angels is a dramatic work of some 16 minute’s duration, scored for a large symphonic brass ensemble, including seven trumpets, and percussion. The percussion section deploys ‘dark’ instruments such as three tam-tams, a bass drum and two sets of timpani.
The title of the work is based on a quotation from the Book of Revelations:
And I saw the seven angels which stood before God; and to them were given seven trumpets
Thus, the idea behind the work is a dramatic one and the composer has emphasised this by the partial spatial arrangement of the ensemble, with six solo trumpets standing centre stage, but behind the main ensemble, and the seventh trumpet off-stage throughout.
The work opens with a four-note motif, dominant throughout the work, announced initially by four off-stage horns and answered by fanfare figures on four solo trumpets. Then in turn each of the first four solo trumpets announce their own cadenzas before joining together, independently playing their own music. This reaches an intense climax before subsiding into slow music which might be described as a Kyrie eleison – a lament for humanity – a cantilena for flugel horn and euphonium, accompanied by trombones. The drama soon returns with the entry of trumpets 5 and 6, playing music that is fast, more urgent and foreboding, and describing in musical terms the horsemen of the Apocalypse.
At the climax of this section trumpet 7 enters dramatically, representing the words of the seventh angel … and time shall be no more. The opening four-note motif is here transformed into a cadenza of epic proportions, to the partial accompaniment of three tam-tams (representing the Holy Trinity). The ensuing scherzo, scored for the ensemble, is fast and furious, but despite the somewhat desolate mood of this music (briefly interrupted by the re-appearance of trumpet 7), it slowly moves towards a more optimistic conclusion, transforming the ‘lament for humanity’ music into an affirmative and triumphant climax.
This work has been commercially recorded on a critically acclaimed CD from London Brass on the Chandos label, available HERE.
For more information on Edward Gregson’s music please visit the composer’s website: www.edwardgregson.com