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ClassicsOnline Home » Wind Band Music - REED, A. / BERNSTEIN, L. / BACH, J.S. / SMITH, C.T. / CHIANG, Chia-Ying (Armenian Dances) (Taiwan Wind Ensemble, Boyd)
Comprising professors and band directors, the Taiwan Wind Ensemble is a leading international exponent of the wind repertory, not least in its exciting series of commissions. On this disc it presents a selection of music of orchestrations and originals from around the world. There are a variety of overtures and evocative dances from Bach to Bernstein, as well as Alfred Reed’s richly colorful Armenian Dances. They are complemented by Taiwanese composer Chia-Ying Chiang’s mysterious and beautiful recent composition A Chasing After The Wind, which takes its title from Ecclesiastes.
Music for Wind Band
Leonard Bernstein (1918–90): Overture to Candide (1956)
Wind orchestration by Clare Grundman, 1991
It would be fair to say that Leonard Bernstein never tackled a composition the same way twice, thereby giving rise to a number of hybrid pieces, the ambiguity of which found Bernstein caught between the European classical tradition and the American vernacular of jazz and musical. As initially conceived, Candide was part musical and part operetta, with a book by Lilian Hellman derived from Voltaire’s eighteenth-century satire, and lyrics by Richard Wilbur. Opening at the Martin Beck Theater on Broadway on 1 December 1956, it achieved a run of just 73 performances. Bernstein began a process of revision that was to last for almost three decades, culminating in the near-operatic version he conducted and recorded in London before his death. The Overture, first heard in concert with the New York Philharmonic on 27 January 1957, is a brilliant potpourri of tunes from the show—taking in Dr Pangloss’s ‘The Best of All Possible Worlds’, Candide and Cunegonde’s marriage duet ‘Oh Happy We’, before ending with Cunegonde’s virtuoso aria ‘Glitter and Be Gay’. This 1991 transcription by Clare Grundman brings out the felicitous woodwind writing with which Bernstein’s score abounds.
JS Bach (1685–1750): Fantasia in G Major, BWV572 (1708)
Wind orchestration by John Boyd, 2010
Johann Sebastian Bach was born in 1685 into a musical dynasty, his family name associated for generations with musicians in Thuringia. Orphaned at the age of ten, he moved in 1695 to Ohrdruf to live with an elder brother, Johann Christoph, organist at the Michaeliskirche. In 1700 Bach left Ohrdruf and entered the Michaelisschule in Lüneburg. His first employment, on leaving school, was in 1703 as a court musician at Weimar, followed, after six months, by appointment as organist at the Neuekirche in Arnstadt. In 1707 he became organist at the Blasiuskirche in Mühlhausen and the following year, now married, he moved to Weimar as organist and chamber musician to Duke Wilhelm Ernst. During the following years he won a reputation as an organist, contributing to the repertoire of the instrument and serving as a consultant on the construction of new instruments in Halle and in Erfurt. In 1717, in spite of the objections of his patron, he moved to Cöthen as Court Kapellmeister to the young Prince Leopold, a position that marked the social climax of his life. It was after the Prince’s marriage to a woman whom Bach described as ‘amusica’ that, in 1723, he moved to Leipzig as Thomaskantor, an employee now of the city council, with responsibility for the music for the principal city churches and teaching duties, some of which could be delegated. Bach remained in this position in Leipzig until his death in 1750.
Bach’s career falls into three distinct phases. The first, at Arnstadt, Mühlhausen and then Weimar, was primarily as an organist; the second period was as a court musician at Cöthen, with wide opportunities for the composition and performance of a varied instrumental repertoire; the third period was as a church musician in Leipzig, varied by work he took on in the direction of the University Collegium Musicum. In each period of his life Bach provided the music appropriate to his position.
The Fantasia in G Major is the middle portion of a three-part Fantasia for Organ, BWV 572, composed during the Arnstandt years. This new edition was first suggested to me by Frederick Fennell prior to his death in December 2004; Fennell wanted a new edition of this composition that more faithfully represented the true character of Bach’s organ work than the usually performed Goldman-Leist edition that he had performed many times. It took me until 2009 to complete this edition and it is dedicated to the memory of Frederick Fennell. The music is ideally suited to the sonority and performance resources of today’s wind band—a sort of living organ from which the necessary continuous outpouring of sound is limited only by the skill with which the players provide the breath to produce it.
Claude Thomas Smith (1932–87): Emperata – Concert Overture (1964)
Claude Thomas Smith was born on March 14, 1932, in Monroe City, Missouri, and spent most of his life in Carrollton, Missouri. After studying at Central Methodist College, he received a bachelor’s degree at the University of Kansas in 1958. Along with public school teaching in the state of Missouri, Smith also taught theory, composition, and directed the University Orchestra at Southwest Missouri State University. Smith was the recipient of many commissions and awards and was popular as a clinician, guest conductor, and adjudicator.
Written in 1964, Emperata Overture is one of Smith’s most popular works. Composed in ABA form, the overture is developed from a motive presented in the opening fanfare by the trumpets and trombones. After a contrasting middle section, the principle theme is heard in a fugue which leads to a brilliant conclusion.
Reproduced by permission of the Publisher, Wingert-Jones Music, Kansas City
Chia-Ying Chiang (b. 1973): A Chasing After The Wind (2010)
A native of Taiwan, Ms. Chiang received her doctoral degree in composition from Indiana University Jacobs School of Music. She received her master’s degree from Yale University and her bachelor’s degree from Manhattan School of Music in Flute performance. Her composition teachers include Claude Baker, Don Freund, Evan Ziporyn, Ezra Laderman and Gordon Chin. Her flute teachers include Ransom Wilson, Linda Chesis, Kathryn Lukas and Jinny Liu. Dr Chiang is currently a faculty member of composition and theory at Taipei Municipal University of Education.
Chiang’s works have been performed in Taiwan, the US, Japan, South Korea and the Czech Republic. As a performer herself, she has had the privilege to work closely with professional musicians. This has allowed her to receive commissions directly from performers and various ensembles. A significant part of her musical output has shown strong connections to the cultural influences of her origin. She has been commissioned several times by the National Culture and Arts Foundation of Taiwan to compose works in collaboration with other Taiwanese artists, including poets, illustrators, and playwrights. Ms. Chiang’s performing activities as a flutist include orchestral, chamber and solo performances. In addition to her enthusiasm for performing contemporary music, she has also been a soloist with several orchestras.
The title of A Chasing After The Wind was taken from the biblical book of Ecclesiastes (New International Version). Solomon, the King of Israel, wrote: “I, the Teacher, was king over Israel in Jerusalem. I applied my mind to study and to explore by wisdom all that is done under the heavens. What a heavy burden God has laid on mankind! I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind.” (Ecclesiastes 1:12–14) This view of life is not just from a powerful and wealthy king, but also the view of life for many people through the ages.
There are two main musical elements in this piece which depict the endless burden of mankind. The first one is a continuous line constructed primarily of thirds and seconds. This element expresses “what has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9) The second element is a short phrase made up of large intervals. This short phrase is played randomly in the woodwind section and depicts the desire of mankind to transcend the mundane.
The sound of chimes at the very beginning of this piece represents the eternal law of the universe. There are always three strikes whenever the chimes are heard, reflecting the unchanging nature of the eternal law. Following the opening chimes, the clarinet section presents the first element described above and the short phrases comprising the second element join in randomly over the repeated layers of continuous lines. In opposition to these two elements, the English horn plays a solo passage that is meant to convey one’s introspective thoughts. This solo passage also leads the music into the following harmonized brass section.
The material of the brass section is derived from the previous elements, both now harmonized and transformed into a slow passage, an expressive chorale-like section. This section depicts the meaning of life that is often forgotten as we pursue our daily routines. Different ideas then join in at the end of the brass section and coalesce to create the climax of the piece. This developmental process represents our efforts to find a balance between a meaningful life and ordinary routines. When the music reaches its climax in speed and volume, all the different elements disintegrate gradually into random fragments, quietly receding into the distance. The offstage trumpets break into the stillness with the tune of the old hymn “He Leadeth Me” in response to the search for a meaningful life. This tune later merges with the previous elements and gradually transforms everything into a serene setting.
The ending is a musical interpretation of the answer that King Solomon gave to the question he raised about the meaning of life:
“What do workers gain from their toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God. I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that people will fear him.” (Ecclesiastes 3:9–14)
Alfred Reed (1921–2005):
The American composer and teacher Alfred Reed was among the most prolific composers of works for concert band, with over 200 compositions to his credit. As a boy in New York he had played the trumpet and gained a wider experience of music. War service in the Army Air Corps Band brought him first hand experience of music for wind band and on his release from military service he studied at The Juilliard School. A period from 1948 as an arranger for NBC and then for ABC was followed by study at Baylor University, where he conducted the University Symphony Orchestra and took his bachelor’s and master’s degrees. From 1955 he was employed as an editor by the music publishers Hansen, but in 1966 took an appointment as professor at Miami University, where he remained for the rest of his career, retiring in 1993.
Armenian Dances – Suite (1972–76)
The Armenian Dances constitute a four movement Suite for Concert Band or Wind Ensemble based on authentic Armenian folk-songs from the collected works of the Armenian priest and ethnomusiciologist, Gomidas Vartabed (1869–1935). The work was commissioned by Harry Begian (1921–2010), former director of the University of Illinois Symphonic Band. Part 1, completed in the summer of 1972 and first performed in January of the following year, is a single movement built on five songs which are interwoven into a continuous, uninterrupted whole. The songs are: Tzirani Tzar (The Apricot Tree), Gakavi Yerk (Song of the Partridge), Hoy, Nazan Em (Hoy, my Nasan), Alagyaz (Mount Alagyaz), and Gna Gna (Go, Go). In Part 2, first performed in April 1976, the folk-songs are given a more extended treatment with each one identified by its title.
Based on notes by John Boyd and Violet Vagramian
Dmitry Shostakovich (1906–75): Festive Overture (1954)
Wind orchestration by Donald Hunsberger, 1965
Outside of his symphonies and concertos, Dmitry Shostakovich composed only a few orchestral works—among which the Festival Overture is the most often heard. Written ostensibly to mark the 37th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution, it proved a sure success at its première in Moscow on 6 November 1954, with the Bolshoy Theatre Orchestra conducted by Alexander Melik-Pashayev, and was soon taken up by orchestras throughout Western Europe as well as the United States. The piece comes from a time when the composer, despite a gradual loosening of restrictions over Soviet culture, seemed unsure over his creative direction and to which the sudden death of his first wife earlier that year no doubt contributed, though nothing of this is evident in the present work which, in its unbridled effervescence, is unerringly suited to purpose. This 1965 transcription by Donald Hunsberger duly makes the most of the scintillating interplay between wind and brass—from the celebratory opening fanfares, via contrastingly lively and mellifluous main themes (here given to clarinets and oboes respectively) and their resourceful elaboration, to the climactic return of the fanfares and a final dash to the finish.
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