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"Under the Spell of Orlua"

Title Under the Spell of Orlua
ComposerF.G.J. Absil
Instrum.Orchestra, with extended percussion group
StyleFantasy Music
KeyModal, atonal
TempoVarious (108 - 122 - 132 BPM)


A musical score excerpt
  • Piccolo, Flute 1-2, Oboe 1-2, Clarinet 1-2, Bass Clarinet, Bassoon 1-2;
  • Horns in F 1-2-3-4, Trombone 1-2-3, Bass Trombone, Bass Tuba;
  • Celesta, Glockenspiel, Harp, Marimba, Orchestral Percussion (7 parts: Bass Drum, Piatti, Snare Drum, Suspended Cymbal, Tambourine, Tamtam, Timpani, Triangle), Arabic Percussion (3-4 parts: Tombak, Darabuka, Dunbek, Riq);
  • Keyboards 1-2 (Synthesizer Pad, Bass Synthesizer);
  • String section: Violin 1, Violin 2, Viola, Cello, Contrabass.


The composition 'Under the Spell of Orlua' contains fantasy themes and scenic mood music. Inspired by the study of a new piece from a colleague composer, this is a tribute to some of its characteristic elements. There are two folk dances used throughout the piece. The first is the 'Danse de Sous' with up-tempo folk flavour; this main theme returns in a number of brief variations. The second is the 'Danse des Dattes' with a mysterious riff background and a pompous character theme. As a contrast there are the tranquil stepwise ostinato pattern in 'Orlua's Harp', and the lyrical 'Kurkum's Theme', both also used in backgrounds. Frequent tempo and instrumentation changes suggest a narrative. Here's the breakdown of the piece:

  • m. 1-13: Introduction allegro, 116 BPM. Soft clarinets and string runs open the piece, leading into a brass fanfare bell chord (f#-e-b-a-d#, an atonal pitch-class set), that will return later in the piece. In [A], m. 9, woodwind clusters and strings conclude the opening.
  • m. 14-28: 'Danse de Sous', 122 BPM, [B]. Statement of the main dance theme by woodwinds and marimba. Low pizzicato strings accompaniment (Va, Vc, Cb) with percussion fills. Call-and-answer at the end (m. 22 ff.) with trombones and low woodwinds.
  • m. 29-36: Transition and 'Kurkum's Theme', calmo 108 BPM, [C]. Solo 1st Horn plays the lyrical theme against a sustained string background.
  • m. 37-44: Variation 1, deciso e espressivo, 124 BPM, [D] The main theme is played by pizzicato strings, using counterpoint imitation, rhythmic augmentation and melodic inversion.
  • m. 45-52: 'Orlua's Harp', poco meno, 120 BPM, [E]. The harp plays an 8th note stepwise scalar ostinato motif (three pitches: f#-e-g#) over a string background, with sustained high strings and the main theme in augmentation in the lower pizzicato strings.
  • m. 53-59: Transition, meno, 112 BPM, [F]. Alternating neighbouring note woodwind patterns over a sustained string and horns background.
  • m. 60-84: 'Danse des Dattes', deciso e espressivo, 124 BPM, [G]. The mood for the second dance is set by a soft mysterious ostinato 16th-note riff, distributed over 1st flute and 2nd clarinet. The stepwise alternating low woodwind patterns return, with a percussive pizzicato background. The pompous theme with Dm tonal flavour enters in m. 66, played first as a pizzicato contrabass arpeggio riff, later (m. 78) picked up by bass trombone and tuba. This is also the starting point for 16th note fill patterns in woodwind, harp and celesta, while the horns play a sustained bell chord. With more intense ad lib percussion patterns this yields a climax towards the end (m. 82-84).
  • m. 85-94: Transition, tranquilo, 116 BPM, [H]. With a sudden transition to soft dynamics (p) sustained horn chords support the alternating neighbouring note patterns in the strings.
  • m. 95-102: Variation 2, allegro giocoso, 126 BPM, [I]. Unisono piccolo, celesta and pizzicato strings play an augmented version of the main theme, with crescendo accents in trombones and horns.
  • m. 103-108: Transition, marcato, tranquilo, 110 BPM, [J]. Acting both as a conclusion of the first half of the piece and introducing the second half, here is the 2nd statement of the brass fanfare bell chord. The strings play fast, 32nd note upward scalar runs.
  • m. 109-116: Variation 3, molto espressivo, 122 BPM, [K]. The main theme from the 'Danse de Sous' is now played by doubled high woodwinds and marimba, accompanied by low woodwind accents.
  • m. 117-122: Transition, subito espressivo, 108 BPM, [L]. Loud trombones answer the woodwinds with the Orlua theme in the lead. Then the low woodwinds and marimba play a transposed and augmented version of the 'Orlua's Harp' ostinato riff.
  • m. 123-130: Transition, misterioso, 120 BPM, [M]. The transition continues, with sustained high string chords and pizzicato pedal leaps d in contrabass.
  • m. 131-138: Variation 4, sostenuto, 116 BPM, [N]. A main theme statement in augmentation in low pizzicato strings. Sustained chords in horns and muted trombones provide harmonic support.
  • m. 139-146: Transition, tranquilo, 110 BPM, [O]. The celesta plays 16th note scalar patterns over sustained strings. This is followed by the 2nd statement of the 'Kurkum's Theme' by 1st bassoon in very high register.
  • m. 147-154: Variation 5, scherzando, 132 BPM, [P]. Woodwinds in 5-part counterpoint setting mockingly play the main theme in augmentation and melodic inversion.
  • m. 155-162: 'Orlua's Harp', calmo, 122 BPM, [Q]. Serenity returns as the mood calms down in this transition section for harp and strings (see m. 45-52).
  • m. 163-170: Transition, meno mosso, 108 BPM, [R]. Alternating neighbouring note woodwind patterns over a sustained string and horns background (see m. 53-59).
  • m. 171-184: 'Danse des Dattes', deciso e espressivo, 124 BPM, [S]. A transposed version of the 16th note ostinato riff for 1st flute and 2nd clarinet opens the return of the second dance, with more elaborate percussion patterns. The pompous dance theme enters in m. 175 with unison bass trombone, tuba and pizzicato contrabass, this time suggesting a Bm triad arpeggio. From m. 177 they are joined by the other brass, with sustained bell notes in trombones and the horns stating the transposed fanfare motif c#-g#-f#-c. The woodwind, harp and celesta arpeggio fill patterns start in 16th note triplets in m. 180, leading to another tutti dance climax.
  • m. 185-188: Transition, subito meno, 114 BPM, [T]. A subito return to softer dynamics in trombones and pizzicato strings, preparing the closing section.
  • m. 189-192: 'Kurkum's Theme', tranquilo, 110 BPM, [U]. Over a mysterious background with sustained string chords, alternating neighbouring notes in violas, and fast scalar fills in high woodwinds, the 1st bassoon plays the third statement of the lyrical theme.
  • m. 193-198: Piu mosso, espressivo, 114 BPM, [V]. The final fanfare bell chord in brass over ascending string section scalar runs, followed by snippets from the main theme in imitation that lead into the coda.
  • m. 199-207: Coda, molto espressivo e furioso, 120 BPM, [W]. Pizzicato strings establish a percussive background. The lead parts piccolo, oboe and harp play a 16th note ostinato riff, based on the 'Orlua's Harp' motif in diminution. Descending woodwind and celesta arpeggio patterns act as fills while arco strings, brass and percussion build up to a closing climax. The piece ends on a sustained unisono pitch b.

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