Instrumentation: Piccolo, 4 flutes, 2 oboes, English horn, 6 Bb clarinets, bass clarinet, 2 bassoons, contrabassoon; soprano sax, alto sax, tenor sax, baritone sax; 4 horns, 4 C trumpets, 3 trombones, euphonium, tuba; timpani; piano; contrabass; 4 percussion (1 = xylophone, glockenspiel; 2 = vibraphone, medium gong; 3 = marimba (5 octaves), bass drum; 4 = tambourine, snare drum, suspended cymbal, vibraslap, crash cymbals, triangle, maracas, castanets.
Publisher: Michael Daugherty Music
World Premiere: San Diego State Wind Symphony, conducted by Shannon Kitelinger, at Don Powell Theatre, San Diego, California, March 19, 2012
On the Air (2012) for symphonic band was commissioned by the San Diego State University School of Music and Dance for its 75th anniversary celebration and the SDSU Wind Symphony, Shannon Kitelinger, conductor. My composition is a fantasy on Arturo Toscanini, who conducted the NBC Symphony Orchestra in radio broadcasts at Rockefeller Center in New York City from 1937 to 1954.
Born in Parma, Italy, Toscanini (1867-1954) was internationally recognized as the most gifted conductor of his time, famous for his definitive interpretation of operatic and symphonic repertoire. At the height of his career, Toscanini was forced into exile in 1936 for his refusal to become part of Mussolini’s Fascist regime. Like the aging magician Prospero, exiled from Milan to an island in Shakespeare’s The Tempest, the 70-year-old Toscanini sailed across the Atlantic Ocean to the island of Manhattan, and cast a magic spell upon all who heard him conduct. Under his baton the NBC Symphony was heard by millions of listeners, and through his radio broadcasts and recordings, Maestro Toscanini became a household name in America.
In 1939, Life magazine reported “the world knows Toscanini as a great conductor with a fearful temper, an unfailing memory, and the power to lash orchestras into frenzies of fine playing.” And in 1944, Toscanini conducted Tchaikovsky’s The Tempest: Symphonic Fantasy for a live radio performance with the NBC Symphony Orchestra. Just as Shakespeare’s Prospero calls upon the spirit of Ariel to fly through the air at his command, so also Toscanini commanded radio waves for his live NBC Symphony Orchestra broadcasts he conducted “on the air.” For this radio broadcast, I have composed music that captures Toscanini’s tempestuous temperament, his musical intensity, and the frenzied tempos of his legendary performances.