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Jacob vs Angel
for Orchestra

Composer: Ramsay, Graham Gordon

  • 27020085

Publication Type

Study Score


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Jacob vs. Angel is a piece about crisis of conscience, ambiguity, and misinterpretation expressed through the depiction of a major battle, the goal of which is never made entirely clear. Based on the biblical story, the work is highly programmatic, with each of the six movements reflecting a corresponding stanza from the titular poem by Alice Weaver Flaherty. The piece was originally composed as a vehicle for virtuoso organist Heinrich Christensen, and later orchestrated. The first movement introduces the main musical material--a five note motive, the intervals of which are reorganized to create melodic and harmonic development throughout the piece. The second, third, and fourth movements depict the brutal fight between Jacob and the angel, and lead one to the next without pause. The fifth movement is about the post-battle scene, and the final movement is an epilogue, reframing the ideas from the previous movements. The music elucidates various actions from the Flaherty poem—sand skittering across the desert, aggressive acts of violence and sensuality between the protagonists, the beating of wings, feathers blowing in the wind, etc. But beyond the music's more literal elements, the work is designed to express an abstract state of mind, a sense of unease, and anticipation of what is yet to come. —Graham Gordon Ramsay

Instrumentation: 2(2) 1,1 2 2; 2221; 7perc, hp, cel; stgs
Duration: 24'
Composed: 2023
Published by: Distributed Composer

Jacob vs Angel was composed originally as a solo concert organ work in 2007; the orchestral version was completed in 2023. A live performance of the organ version can be seen at

Performance materials available on rental: Subito Music Rental Library via Zinfonia
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