The Symphony for Wind Ensemble was written in 1985 at the request of Dr. David Waybright, then Director of Bands at McNeese State University. The work is dedicated to Vincent Persichetti, one of my composition teachers at the Juilliard School. When I first received the commission from David, I decided to rework an earlier composition of mine, a piano sonata, so that I could concentrate on the "orchestration" of the work, since I had never written for the band medium before. The first movement, Presto Agitato, is driving and dramatic, and is in sonata-allegro form. The five note principal motive is the melodic germ of the movement and has expository, developmental and terminative functions. The slower secondary theme is ominous and foreboding, setting the stage for a very turbulent development section. The final coda is also based upon the opening motive and builds to a fiery climax. The second movement is a tranquil, cantabile outpouring of lyricism and pathos, a highly contrasting mood to the two agitated movements that surround it. "Toccata" is a driving, unrelenting, rhythmic tour de force. It is a sectionalized composition with a large ABA structure. Just before and at the final repeat of the A section, two Easter hymn tunes are sounded in the brass section: "Christ lag in Todesbanden" and "Jesus Christ is Risen Today." Though the movement begins in the minor mode, the work concludes triumphantly in the key of F-sharp Major. Though the title suggests that this symphony should be performed by a smaller wind ensemble, my concept is really for a large symphonic band. The additional instruments help to project the powerfulness and the overall excitement that I wish to convey in this work.
- Composer: Keith Gates