Soloist(s) and orchestra
Band / Wind / Brass Ensemble
Large ensemble
2-8 players
Solo (excluding keyboard)
Solo keyboard(s)
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Chorus and orchestra
Solo voice and up to 8 players
The Ghosts of Versailles: arias and excerpts (voice(s) and piano)
Three Cabaret Songs (voice(s) and piano)
End of the Line
Film scores

The Mannheim Rocket
For orchestra


rent score and parts from G. Schirmer Inc 


Scored for 3(pic).3.3(bcl).3(cbn)/4331/timp.4perc/hp.pf/str

Duration  11 minutes



Helsinki Philharmonic; John Storgards, conductor Includes Symphony No. 2 for String Orchestra Ondine ODE 1039-2 (2004)


Program note

I first heard of THE MANNHEIM ROCKET in a music history course in my freshman year at college. The term was used to describe a musical technique perfected by the Mannheim Orchestra in the 18th century in which a rising figure (a scale or arpeggio) speeded up and grew louder as it rose higher and higher (hence the term "rocket".)

As a young music student, however, my imagination construed a very different image -that of a giant 18th century wedding-cake-rocket, commandeered by the great Baron Von Munchausen, and its marvelous journey to the heavens and back.

It was this image that excited me when I was asked to write a work for today's Mannheim Orchestra: I knew I had to re-create the rocket of my young imagination and travel with it through its adventures.

And so this ten-minute work begins with the scratch of a match and a serpentine 12-tone fuse that sparkles with light and fire. The ignition leads to a slow heaving as the giant engine builds up steam. The "motor" of the rocket is a very low, very slow "Alberti bass", the accompaniment pattern that has served as the motor of so many classical pieces.

To get it started, I included a quote from one of the originators of the "Mannheim Rocket", Johann Anton Wenzel Stamitz (1717-57). The stately opening of his Sinfonia in E-flat (La melodia Germanica No.3) uses a scalar "rocket" to lift our heavy structure and starts it on its way.

This is the first in a series of quotes as the rocket rises and moves faster and faster, climbing through more than two hundred years of German music, finally breaking through a glass ceiling to float serenely in heaven.

There the rocket and crew are serenaded by tranquil "Music of the Spheres". But what comes up must come down, and with a return of the opening fuse-music, the descent begins.

The rocket accelerates as flashes of the ascent—backwards—mark the fall. Just before the inevitable crash, Wagner tries to halt things, but the rocket is uncontrollable: even he can't stop it. After a crunching meeting with terra firma the slow heaving and Alberti-bass-motor die away as we hear a fleeting memory of heaven, and, finally, a coda composed of a MANNHEIM ROCKET.

                     — John Corigliano

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