I'm finishing up a trumpet and piano piece, which got me thinking about endings. I love writing endings. Sometimes it is the hardest section of a piece to compose, but I love it anyway. Most composers probably agree that starting a piece is often the hardest part, but there is a certain pressure that looms when it comes time to write an ending. You have to wrap everything up - successfully, creatively, and uniquely. The ending is also a great opportunity - to transform the music you've written, to "kick it up a notch" and take the listener somewhere special.
Endings are often where we find composers being the most creative.
Sometimes composers choose to bring the music to its highest moment of tension at the ending, saving the climax for the very end. Other times, the ending is understated, drawing the piece to a close in a hushed calm. Still other times, endings surprise us with their wit. Think about some of your favorite pieces and how they end - being that they are your favorite pieces, I bet they have endings that you love.
Renaissance composers such as Josquin developed the compositional idea of a conclusione - an ending which brings together all the pervading motives of the work. The technique provides a satisfying summation of the work - bringing back elements of music which we have heard before, but combining them into an amalgamation which is new and often stunning. Lately, I have found myself more and more attracted to this idea of conclusione, and several of my works aim for an ending that somehow brings together several music motives and transforms them through their simultaneous (or nearly simultaneous) combination.
Here is a wonderful example of a conclusione ending by Josquin, from his astounding psalm motet Miserere mei deus:
<iframe width="420" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/p6pBEHBXmKk" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>