Keyboard Percussion 6+ | Grade 2 | 2'30"
from Carnival of the Animals (Saint-Saens)
Written for keyboard percussion sextet, Aquarium is an arrangement of Saint-Saëns’ enchanting movement of the same name from The Carnival of the Animals. Musicality is at the forefront as players are challenged with complex, layered lines and multiple opportunities for rubato. Perfect for a middle or high school ensemble!
*The two xylophone parts are playable on one instrument.
** The two marimba parts are playable on one 4.3-octave (low A) instrument.
Percussive Notes Review
As our percussion community continues to adapt great literature to the percussion ensemble genre, some works translate well and some don’t. Matt Moore’s arrangement of “Aquarium” from “Carnival of the Animals” for keyboard sextet lends itself beautifully to the percussion ensemble instrumentation and is tastefully and effectively adapted here. The arrangement is quite faithful to the original orchestral version—even in the same key—and the attention to detail in phrasing and musical shaping will greatly assist an intermediate ensemble in presenting a fulfilling performance.
Scored for six players but playable on four instruments, the xylophone and marimba parts both fit comfortably on a single instrument. Each keyboard part is playable with two mallets, but the first marimba part may be more comfortable with four. As with the original, the piece is set in common time with no key signature. There is significant use of accidentals and a few passages are quite chromatic, but the slow tempo and repeated sections still allow this to be graded at the intermediate level. The accompaniment figures that include thirty-second notes and sixteenth-note triplets in the original are simplified to sixteenth-note triplets and sixteenth notes respectively, but maintain the duple/triple texture. Additionally, the glass harmonica grace-note figures are realized in specific rhythmic notation, as are the piano rolls. Some of the original accidentals are changed from sharps to flats, presumably for readability, but it does prevent full consideration of Saint Saens’ original harmonic design.
The piece is less than 40 measures in length, but with a performance time of approximately 2½ minutes, it would function well as a percussion contribution to a band or orchestra performance or as a delicate contrast piece on a percussion ensemble concert.
Vol. 51, No. 6, November 2013
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