Category Archives: Arranged by Daniel Powers

Gliere: Four Pieces for viola and piano

Reinhold Glière

Four Pieces for viola and piano Präludium and Scherzo, op. 32 Intermezzo and Tarantella, op. 9 originally for double bass and piano

HG-F1 duration (total): approx. 17 minutes Purchase at J. W. Pepper; Score and part $35.00

In the first decade of the twentieth century, Reinhold Glière enriched the double bass repertoire with four highly Romantic, richly expressive works written for his friend Serge Koussevitzky. They were originally published in 2 volumes, the Intermezzo and Tarantella as opus 9 in 1902, and the Präludium and Scherzo as opus 32 in 1908. It has become common for bassists to perform all four pieces together, with the later works preceding the earlier, and this convention is followed in this transcription.

Nielsen: Fantasy Pieces, op. 2 (viola and piano)

Carl Nielsen (1865-1931)

Fantasistykker, (Fantasy Pieces), op. 2

Originally for oboe and piano
Arranged for viola and piano by Daniel Powers

duration: approx. 6 minutes
Score and part: $25.00
Order through JW Pepper

By the beginning of the twentieth century, Carl Nielsen would be firmly established as Denmark’s most significant composer, but in the late 1880’s he was just another young musician fresh from the Conservatory attempting to make a name for himself.

Nielsen attended the Royal Danish Conservatory from 1884 to 1886, where his principal field of study was the violin. Even though he took composition lessons from Niels Gade, he seems to have only gradually come around to the idea that composition would be his principal occupation. After graduating, he supported himself like most young violinists, giving private lessons and taking any performing opportunities that came his way. Several of his early pieces were performed during these years and were generally well received. His official opus 1, a Suite for Strings, suffered the indignity of having its scheduled premiere bumped by a visiting English composer who finagled the substitution of his own work for the unknown Dane’s. The Suite was premiered in September 1888, a week later than scheduled, and was so well received that one movement, a Waltz, had to be repeated. Nielsen’s career had begun.

Things continued to look up in 1889, when he auditioned for and received a chair in the second violin section of the prestigious Royal Danish Orchestra, where he remained for the next sixteen years. The two Fantasy Pieces for oboe and piano, published in 1890 as Nielsen’s opus 2, owe their existence to the composer’s friendship with two of the orchestra’s oboists, Peter Brøndum and Olivo Krause. Originally designated Andante and Intermezzo, the two pieces were completed in March 1890. They were first performed in September, at a private gathering in Dresden at which Nielsen performed the oboe part on the violin, accompanied by the pianist Victor Bendix. The official premiere, by Krause and Bendix, was to have taken place the following December, but Krause fell ill and could not perform, so the performance was delayed until March 1891, some weeks after the pieces had already been published.

Some twenty years later, Nielsen recalled: “The two oboe pieces are a very early opus. The first – slow –piece gives the oboe the opportunity to sing out its notes quite as beautifully as this instrument can. The second is more humorous, roguish, with an undertone of Nordic nature and forest rustlings in the moonlight.”

The Romance was transcribed for violin by Hans Sitt later that same year, and became popular among violinists even before the oboe version received a second performance. (Nielsen himself performed the Sitt transcription on at least one occasion.)

My transcription for viola includes both pieces. It was possible to follow Nielsen’s original very closely; for the most part, the only changes necessary were to transpose the oboe part down an octave, and to make appropriate modifications to the phrasing and articulation.

The Star-Spangled Banner

The Star-Spangled Banner (2010)

Lyric by Francis Scott Key
Melody by John Stafford Smith
Arrangement by Daniel Powers

for mixed chorus and large orchestra

Orchestra set / /  T+3 / harp / organ (optional) / strings
additional brass (in the hall) (highly desirable, but can be omitted if necessary)
mixed chorus

duration: 10 minutes (if a cut is taken, duration is reduced to 8 1/2 minutes)

The Star-Spangled Banner

View score


The song known around the world as the national anthem of the United States ironically owes its existence to the union of a poem written in 1814 by an American lawyer with a melody composed sometime in the 1770s by an English organist—the irony arises from the fact that at the time Francis Scott Key wrote his famous words, America and England were embroiled in the War of 1812.

And in fact, Key’s words were directly inspired by one of the war’s more significant battles, the Battle of Baltimore. Key witnessed the battle from the deck of a British ship, where he had been dispatched to negotiate an exchange of prisoners. The negotiations were successful, but since Key had overheard plans for a British bombardment of Fort McHenry, he was not permitted to return to shore until the battle was over. The British bombarded Fort McHenry for twenty-five hours, but because the fort had been recently strengthened, the attack was unsuccessful. When Key saw that the American flag still flew above the fort as dawn broke on September 14, he was inspired to begin writing a verse description of the battle and its aftermath, completing it a few days later after he and his party had been released.

The melody had been written some forty years earlier by John Stafford Smith, an English organist and musicologist. Smith had intended it for a very different purpose, with fairly bawdy lyrics celebrating wine and women. The song had been well known in the United States since Colonial days, and had already been the subject of many contrafacta, “the substitution of one text for another without substantial change to the music,” according to Grove’s Dictionary of Music. Key had, in fact, already written one such contrafactum, titled “When the Warrior Returns,” some parts of which he borrowed for “The Star Spangled Banner.”

The song was first printed on September 20 under the title “The Defense of Fort McHenry.” Within weeks it had been reprinted in newspapers from Georgia to New Hampshire, and soon became the most popular patriotic song in the country, a popularity which continues to this day. Surprisingly, it was not officially recognized as the National Anthem of the United States until 1931.

The song is both well-known and not well-known. Every American (one assumes) has participated in singing the song at patriotic functions, sporting events, and so on, but it is possible that few Americans have ever heard the song in its entirety, or are even aware that Key wrote four verses. We sing the first verse, and then we stop. The effect is odd, since if we pay attention to the words we see that the prevailing mood is not proud and patriotic, but rather anxious and fearful. When the narrator of the poem, presumably Key himself, asks “Does that Star Spangled Banner yet wave?” he is wondering whether the American forces have surrendered; if they had, the flag would have been lowered.

The answer comes in the very next verse, but we never hear it since we have stopped singing at that point. Since 2014 is the bicentennial year of the composition of our national anthem, it would seem to be a good occasion to re-familiarize ourselves with it.

My arrangement of The Star Spangled Banner was commissioned by David Bowden and the Carmel Symphony Orchestra in 2010. I tried to remain true to the song as we know it while also trying to capture the sentiments expressed in the lyrics. It begins with a substantial orchestral prelude trying to capture some of the feeling of the ongoing battle; rockets glaring, bombs bursting, and so on. Darkness falls, and a male chorus anxiously sings the first verse. Dawn breaks (second verse), and the flag is still seen flying. The third verse rather viciously celebrates the defeat of the enemy, and patriotic fervor finally reaches its climax in the fourth verse, with thanks to God and triumphant fanfares.

Daniel Powers
August 2013

Bach: Suite for Three Violas (after BWV996)

Johann Sebastian Bach

Suite for Three Violas (after the Suite in E minor for Lautenwerke, BWV996)

Arranged by Daniel Powers

duration: approx. 15 minutes
Score and parts: $19.99
Order through JW Pepper

Bach’s autograph manuscript for the BWV996 Suite has never come to light. It is primarily known through a copy made by Bach’s colleague (and cousin) Johann Gottfried Walther (1684-1748), headed with the description “aufs Lauten Werck,” which was assumed to refer to the lute, making this the earliest of Bach’s handful of compositions for this instrument.

However, “Lautenwerck” is also the name of a keyboard instrument, a type of harpsichord strung with gut instead of wire, resulting in a mellower, lute-like sound. The inventory of Bach’s estate shows that he owned two such instruments at the time of his death; there is also a record that one was purchased in Weimar, built in 1715 by another Bach cousin, Johann Nikolaus Bach.

These factors, together with the fact that the work as written is admirably suited to keyboard technique, lead to the conclusion that the BWV996 Suite was intended from the start as a work for lute-harpsichord (though lutenists and guitarists are understandably reluctant to concede this).

Sometime in early 2013, I happened to hear a performance of the suite on guitar, and before it was over, I had somehow come up with the idea that it might sound nice on three violas. It’s possible that this wouldn’t have occurred to me, were it not for the fact that some months before, I had been present at the 2012 International Viola Congress in Rochester, NY, where I heard several fine viola ensembles perform; so the idea of contributing something to the repertoire had been at the back of my mind for a while.