Today's post will feature more band music from Warren Benson as we explore The Leaves Are Falling. Benson began composition of the piece on November 22, 1963 the date of the assassination of John F. Kennedy and the work uses the Martin Luther hymn tune Ein' feste Burg (A Mighty Fortress). The piece is extremely important in the history of band music and was considered exceptionally important and groundbreaking at the time of its composition.
Below you can find program notes on the piece as well as a recording.
Warren Benson, The Leaves Are Falling
"The President's Own" United States Marine Band, Col. Michael J. Colburn, conductor
Completed in January, 1964, The Leaves Are Falling introduced to the large wind ensemble-band literature a kind of music in which in its single movement length and introspective character was unknown to that time. The work was commissioned by Kappa Gamma Psi, a small national music fraternity of which Frank L. Battisti, Ithaca, NY, was an officer. It was through him that the commission came about. It was to have its premiere performance on the American Music Festival of May, 1964, by the Eastman Wind Ensemble under Clyde A. Roller, conductor, in the Eastman Theatre of the Eastman School of Music, Rochester, New York.
The work was inspired by the poem Herbst (Autumn) from Buch der Bilder, by Rainer Maria Rilke.
The leaves are falling, falling as if from afar,
as though far gardens withered in the skies;
They are falling with denying gestures.
And in the nights the heavy earth is falling
from all the stars down into loneliness.
We all are falling. This hand falls.
And look at the others: it is in them all.
And yet there is one, who holds this falling
with infinite gentleness in his hands.
- Program Note from the Printed Score