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As Light as Bird from Brier

Fantasy after Mendelssohn

By Dan Welcher

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Woodwinds Soprano Saxophone, Piano
Fantasy after Mendelssohn. Composed by Dan Welcher. Sws. Score and part(s). 28 pages. Duration 10 minutes. Theodore Presser Company #164-00295. Published by Theodore Presser Company (PR.164002950).

Item Number: PR.164002950

ISBN 9781491114568. 9 x 12 inches.

Dan Welchers fascinating work for soprano sax is both a refraction of Mendelssohns music for A Midsummer Nights Dream, and his own incidental music to Shakespeares comedy. The works title, AS LIGHT AS BIRD FROM BRIER, quotes from Oberon (King of the Fairies) invoking revelry at the plays climactic wedding scene. Welchers fantasy skips among the most beloved themes of Mendelssohns Midsummer giving the saxophonist quite a workout, and the listener a midsummer delight.
AS LIGHT AS BIRD FROM BRIER is loosely based on Shakespeares play A Midsummer Nights Dream, which has haunted me since I was nine years old. My parents subscribed me to The Childrens Record Guild, and every month a new 78rpm vinyl record would arrive in the mail. They were mostly fairy tales and kids lit, but in this case it was a very condensed performance of the actual play, with Mendelssohns music. I loved it immediately, and still do I saw a performance in 2014 at the Stratford Festival that literally stalks my dreams. When I was commissioned by saxophonist Stephen Page to compose a work for soprano saxophone and piano two years later, I channeled Mendelssohn as an inspiration: specifically, the Overture, the Scherzo, the Intermezzo, the fairys song You spotted snakes with double tongue, and the Rustics Dance. But its not a pastiche most of the music is completely my own, though attentive listeners will detect snatches of Mendelssohns haunting score throughout. This piece joins MILL SONGS and FLORESTANS FALCON among works honoring my favorite 19th-century composers (in those cases, Schubert and Schumann) without ripping them off. As Stravinsky did in his ballet Pulcinella, I have borrowed fragments of melody from a much-loved composer, and made a fabric of harmonies and scales that are genetically related to Mendelssohn, but unmistakably Welcher. In this work, the saxophonist is Puck skittish, dazzlingly fast, and brilliant in the outer parts, and a mischievous Cupid in the long, central Love Song. (Remember how Puck anoints Titanias eyes with the juice from a magic flower, which causes her to fall in love with Bottom the weaver, who has been bewitched and wears a donkeys head?) The music traces Pucks magic flight, the finding of the flower, Titanias love-scene with Bottom and her fairies, and the rustic players whose rehearsal of the funniest play-within-the-play in literature is interrupted by Pucks dirty tricks. I greatly enjoyed the process of writing this piece, and often found myself quite moved even as I was writing it... which rarely happens. Stephen Page, who commissioned the work, is a consummate artist (and a bit of a Puck himself). The title comes from Oberons final speech in the play: Through the house, give glimmering light, By the dead and drowsy fire. Every elf and fairy sprite Hop as light as bird from brier, And this ditty, after me, Sing, and dance it trippingly.

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