3 Flutes (1st and 2nd also piccolo, 3rd also piccolo and alto flute)
3 Oboes (3rd also cor anglais)
3 Clarinets in A (3rd also bass clarinet)
3 Bassoons (3rd also Double bassoon)
4 Horns in F
3 Trumpets in Bb
3 Trombones (1st and 2nd Tenor trombone, 3rd Bass trombone)
Timpani (also Bass drum and high Grelots)
Percussion (3 Players):
I. Conga,Tamburo basco, Crotales, Glockenspiel, Tubular bells, Triangel
II. Cajon, high (placed between conductor and concert master)
III. Cajon, low (placed between conductor and 1st Violoncello)
14 Violins I
12 Violins II
6 Double basses
Some people believe that the Hungarian and Basque languages are related to one another. Although this theory is certainly wrong, the two are alike in that neither has anything to do with the languages of their neighbours. We may assume, then, that Peter Eötvös, the world-famous Hungarian composer/conductor, had some thoughts of his own about linguistic and cultural isolation when composing his short orchestral piece for the Basque National Orchestra in 2011/12.
One of the most popular Basque folk instruments are pipes like the high-pitched xirula and its somewhat larger cousin, the txistu. The Basques also use a great variety of drums and other percussion. (One may even find musicians who play the pipe with one hand and a drum with the other.) Accordingly, Eötvös uses a large percussion battery, including two cajóns—instruments shaped like wooden boxes that originated in Peru. His wind choir includes three piccolos, each tuned differently to evoke a folk instrument that is not always perfectly in tune. At the other end of the sound spectrum, the low brass (trombones and tuba) looms as a nearly-constant presence, playing their melodic fragments in majestic slow motion. The juxtaposition of very high and very low registers gives an idea of the vast spatial expanse in which the eagle of the title soars.
What begins as a trio of piccolos with percussion accompaniment soon expands into a section involving the full orchestra, with the slow, deep notes of the trombones and tuba against the faster, repeated-note patterns of the bassoons, horns and trumpets. A rhythmically active passage, using the asymmetrical meters characteristic of Basque folk music, is followed by a cadenza for solo violin in the highest register, a recall of the piccolo melody, and a surprise ending.
The first performance of The Gliding of the Eagle in the Skies was given in Pamplona by the
Basque National Orchestra under Andrés Orozco-Estrada on October 15, 2012. The composer revised the score in 2015.
/Peter Eötvös – The Gliding of the Eagle in the Skies – 2012, rev. 2015/
DIAPASON review – March 2020
CLASSICA review – March 2020