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Last Day of Pompeii, The


Genre: Percussion Ensemble
# of Players: 7 + Clarinet & Contrabassoon
Level: Medium | Duration: 12:00
Publisher: C. Alan Publications | Copyright: 1993
Click on images to left for score sample

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Notes & Instrumentation
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  • Notes & Instrumentation

    A gorgeous, unique percussion ensemble with beautiful colors throughout. Read the program notes and use them as the bases of rehearsing this very emotional composition.

    Genre: Percussion Ensemble | # of Players: 7 + Clarinet & Contrabassoon
    Level: Medium | Duration: 12:00

    Clarinet (Bb soprano clarinet, bass clarinet, plastic maracas, celeste)
    Contrabassoon (wood shell maracas)
    Percussion 1 (marimba, bells, crotales, bass drum, water filled crystal glass)
    Percussion 2 (marimba, crotales, bass drum, cymbal, water filled crystal glass, toms, 3 almglocken)
    Percussion 3 (marimba, crotales, chimes, bass drum)
    Percussion 4 (marimba, vibraphone, crotales, chimes, bass drum, celeste)
    Percussion 5 (small tam-tam, triangle, oxygen tank, glass/bamboo wind chimes, crotales, flexatone, tuned cup gongs, Chinese cymbal, 2 thin cymbals, Turkish sizzle cymbal)
    Percussion 6 (large tam-tam, triangle, oxygen tank, glass wind chimes, crotales, Chinese cymbal, 2 thin cymbals, Turkish sizzle cymbal)
    Percussion 7 (timpani, metal wind chimes, Korean gong or similar, lion's roar)

    Program Notes
    Pompeii, the ancient city of Campania, Italy, lies 14 miles southeast of Naples near Mt. Vesuvius. Built on a spur formed by a prehistoric lava flow, Pompeii, together with Herculaneum and Stabiae, were devastated by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius at 1:00 pm, August 24, 79 AD.

    A vivid eyewitness account of this pine-tree shaped eruption is preserved in two letters written by Pliny the Younger as he observed the event some 20 miles away in Misenum. In his writings, Pliny speaks of earthquakes which preceded the eruption along with five lightning bolts which struck Pompeii. "You could hear the shrieks of women," writes Pliny, "the crying of children, and the shouts of men… some prayed to die, from the very fear of dying. Many lifting their hands to the gods; but the greater part imagining that there were no gods left anywhere, and the last and eternal night was come upon the world." In the aftermath, Pompeii was covered with lapilli (volcanic debris) and ashes to a depth of 19–23 feet. At Herculaneum, volcanic materials, carried along with water, hardened into a form of mud-lava that penetrated everywhere, covering the city to a depth of 65 feet.

    The ruins of Pompeii were discovered late in the 16th century by Comenico Fontana, who tunnelled under the hill known as La Civita to bring water from the Samo River to Torre Annunziata. Excavations begat first at Herculaneum in 1709 and work at Pompeii did not begin until 1748.

    The Last Day of Pompeii primarily uses seven percussionists which represent the seven city gates that surround the two-mile circumference of the city. The addition of two additional performers, contrabassoon and bass clarinet, assist the piece in a programmatic fashion representing Mt. Vesuvius. The final total of nine performers represents the nine regions in which the city was divided. The piece is composed of four major sections: The Dawn of the Blacksmiths, The Festival of Dionysus, The Judgement of Vesuvius, and Reconciliation.

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