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Bennu's Fire
for solo clarinet and wind ensemble or orchestra

Full Orchestra
String Orchestra
Wind Ensemble
Solo Instrumental

The Bennu bird of Egyptian mythology was the prototype for the various legends of a firebird that are seen in cultures around the world. In fact, the famous Greek myth of the Phoenix was adapted directly from tales of the Egyptian Bennu. This piece unites a collection of varying components from assorted myths of the firebirdís lifecycle, showcasing all that has developed from the Egyptian bird of resurrection, the Bennu.

The first movement explores the birdís birth from ashes. Beginning with a reference to the Infernal Dance of Stravinskyís monumental ballet The Firebird, the music quickly moves in a vastly different direction. Percussion sparkling over a bed of trills creates a magical atmosphere through which the solo clarinet emerges, at first uneasy as a hatchling bird, but soon energized with a pounding rhythmic drive. At its peak, the energy dissipates into mystical clouds as the firebird takes flight and the music fades away.

Many firebird myths state that the birdís cry is a singularly beautiful song. The second movement seeks to represent this, highlighting the beauty and lyricism of the solo clarinet over a series of varying textural accompaniment intensities from a lone vibraphone to a clarinet and saxophone duet, a timpani roll to a full-bodied brass presentation of the melody. Following a cadenza from the soloist, the full ensemble plays an expansive elaboration of the original song. From this, the solo clarinet descends gently to a place of calm and serenity.

The fate of the Phoenix bird is famously death and rebirth by fire. The third movement is a frenzied build, referencing themes from the first two movements along the way before exploding into a roaring resurrection inferno.

This concerto was commissioned by Alexander Fiterstein, the California State University at Northridge Wind Ensemble. The wind ensemble version of this work was premiered on August 5, 2011 by Alexander Fiterstein and the California State University at Northridge Wind Ensemble, Lawrence Stoffel conducting.

Duration: ca. 22'

Download a pdf of the wind ensemble score here.

Listen to the world premiere with Alexander Fiterstein and the California State University Northridge Wind Ensemble, Lawrence Stoffel conducting.
August 5, 2011 at the Valley Performing Arts Center, ClarinetFest 2011.

Watch a performance of the second movement, Phoenix Song, performed by Andy Hudson, clarinet, and the Joliet Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Alexandra Dee.

Video of the second movement, Phoenix Song, transcribed for clarinet and string quartet.
Performance at the Bowdoin International Music Festival by Jackie Gillette, clarinet; Yeokyung Kim and Holly Workman, violins; John Petrey, viola; and Brian Klickman, cello:

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    Orchestral instrumentation:
  • Solo Clarinet
  • 2 Flutes (2nd doubles Piccolo), 2 Oboes (2nd doubles English Horn), 2 Bb Clarinets (2nd doubles Bass Clarinet), 2 Bassoons
  • 4 Horns in F, 3 Bb Trumpets, 3 Trombones (3rd is Bass), 1 Tuba
  • Timpani, 3 Percussionists
  • Piano/Celesta, Strings
    Wind ensemble instrumentation:
  • Solo Clarinet
  • Piccolo, 3 Flutes, 2 Oboes, 3 Bb Clarinets, Bb Bass Clarinet, 2 Bassoons (2nd doubles Contrabassoon)
  • Soprano Sax, Alto Sax, Tenor Sax, Baritone Sax
  • 4 Horns in F, 3 Bb Trumpets, 3 Trombones (3rd is Bass), Euphonium, Tuba
  • Timpani, 5 Percussionists
  • Piano, Contrabass
    Percussion required for both versions:
  • Snare Drum, Bass Drum, 4 Tom-toms (low to high), 3 Suspended Cymbals, Tam-tam, 5 Temple Blocks, Brake Drum, Whip, Triangle, Mark Tree, Chimes, Crotales, Glockenspiel, Xylophone, Vibraphone
Bennu's Fire
Date(s) of performance

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