I completed Rapture at my home in Pittsford, New York on January 9, 2000. Commissioned by the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, it is dedicated to that orchestra's music director, Mariss Jansons.
It should be noted that the title of this score is not "The Rapture;" the piece is not connected to any specific religious source. Rather, I used the word "rapture" to convey a sense of spiritual bliss, religious or otherwise. With the exception of my Christmas work, Karolju, this is the most unabashedly tonal music I have composed. I wished to depict a progression to an ever more blinding ecstasy, but the entire work inhabits a world devoid of darkness -- hence the almost complete lack of sustained dissonance. Rapture also is an exercise in gradually increasing tempi; it begins quite slowly but, throughout its eleven minute duration proceeds to speed up incrementally until the breakneck tempo of the final moments is reached. Although much of my music is associated with grief and despair, Rapture is one of a series of more recent scores -- such as Compline (1996), Kabir Padavali (1997), and Concert de Gaudi (1998) -- to look "towards the light."
The work is scored for an orchestra of three flutes, three oboes, three clarinets, three bassoons, four horns, four trumpets, four trombones, tuba, harp, timpani (two players), percussion (three players), and strings. The percussion battery consists of bass drum, five triangles, tam-tam, Chinese cymbal, suspended cymbal, chimes, glockenspiel, and antique cymbals.
© 2000 by Christopher Rouse
These program notes can be reproduced free of charge with the following credit:
Reprinted by kind permission of Christopher Rouse
"[Rapture] was greeted with sustained applause and cheering. In its expert achievement of its goals, the piece shows why Rouse is one of America's leading composers... The composer's program notes say the title conveys 'a sense of spiritual bliss, religious or otherwise'.... Commissioned by the Pittsburgh Symphony and dedicated to Mariss Jansons, Rapture shows off the orchestra collectively and individually. Its resplendent scoring is both rich and bright. Rouse writes for virtuoso orchestra, with solos within sections and not just for principal players. He achieves an especially brilliant outburst at one point by having four trumpeters play multiple cross rhythms, and uses the percussion particularly well."
"an exceptional 11-minute work with powerful tonal underpinnings and swirling dynamic shifts.... Good compositions stimulate the mind and allow for multiple readings, thoughts, and feelings. That's exactly what the invigorating Rapture did with its well-paced structure, vibrant solos and lush string writing. The piece swelled from lambent music to joyful surges, never becoming repetitive or predictable."