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ClassicsOnline Home » Wind Band Music - TORKE, M. / TICHELI, F. / COPLAND, A. (Landscapes) (University of Kansas Wind Ensemble, Popiel)
Landscapes is a journey through the rich tapestry of American wind band music, performed by one of the country’s leading ensembles. One of Michael Torke’s most admired works, Javelin has been described as a ‘sonic olympiad’, while his arrangement of Mojave was made especially for Ji Hye Jung and the University of Kansas Wind Ensemble. Frank Ticheli explores vibrant colors in sound in his moving An American Elegy, while the Copland arrangements encapsulate the depth and variety of his imagination.
Michael Torke (b. 1961)
The music of Michael Torke has been called “some of the most optimistic, joyful and thoroughly uplifting music to appear in recent years” (Gramophone). Hailed as a “vitally inventive composer” (Financial Times) and “a master orchestrator whose shimmering timbral palette makes him the Ravel of his generation” (The New York Times), Michael Torke has created a substantial body of works in virtually every genre, each with a characteristic personal stamp that combines restless rhythmic energy with ravishingly beautiful melodies.
Michael Torke’s career began while he was still a composition student at Yale, when his Ecstatic Orange for orchestra and Yellow Pages for chamber ensemble brought him to the attention of publishers and recording labels. At age 23, he left graduate school and signed with both Boosey & Hawkes and Argo/Decca Records. His music defines post-Minimalism, which builds upon the repetitive techniques of the Minimalist generation and on both classical and contemporary pop music. In 2003, he founded Ecstatic Records and re-released his Decca/Argo recordings, which were described as some of the best Classical albums of the year by the New York Times.
Javelin (arr. Patterson) (1994/97)
One of Torke’s most frequently performed orchestral pieces is Javelin, a “sonic olympiad” commissioned by the Atlanta Committee for the Olympics in celebration of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra’s fiftieth anniversary season. Javelin was first performed in 1994 by the ASO, Yoel Levi conductor. The first transcription for wind ensemble was written by Merlin Patterson on a commission by the University of Houston School Of Music and conductor Eddie Green. This rendition by the University of Kansas Wind Ensemble is thought to be the first recording of the band transcription in the key of A Major, the original orchestral key.
Mojave exists in many genres, all requiring a virtuosic marimba soloist. The marimba is representative of the scenic view as one travels Interstate 15 from Las Vegas to Los Angeles. The dry notes from the shaker emulate the dry plant life seen in the Mojave Desert. Mojave was written for Colin Currie as part of the 2010 Tromp International Music Competition and Festival. First heard as a work for string quartet with shaker player and marimba solo, it was shortly followed by the orchestral version. The wind ensemble version was commissioned by the University of Kansas Wind Ensemble in 2011 for Ji Hye Jung, marimba soloist and KU Assistant Professor of Percussion.
Frank Ticheli (b. 1958)
Frank Ticheli is a prolific composer, well known for his works for band, orchestra, and choir. Many of his wind band compositions have become standards of the repertoire. Ticheli joined the faculty of the University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music in 1991, where he is Professor of Composition. From 1991 to 1998, Ticheli was Composer in Residence of the Pacific Symphony. He is the recipient of a 2012 Arts and Letters Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, his third award from that prestigious organization. His Symphony No 2 was named winner of the 2006 NBA/William D. Revelli Memorial Band Composition Contest. Other awards include the Walter Beeler Memorial Prize and First Prize awards in the Texas Sesquicentennial Orchestral Composition Competition, Britten-on-the-Bay Choral Composition Contest, and Virginia CBDNA Symposium for New Band Music. Ticheli received his doctoral and masters degrees in composition from The University of Michigan. His works are published by Manhattan Beach, Southern, Hinshaw, and Encore Music, and are recorded on the Albany, Chandos, Clarion, Klavier, Koch International, Mark and Naxos labels.
An American Elegy (2000)
An American Elegy was commissioned by the Columbine Commissioning Fund, a consortium founded by the Alpha Iota Chapter of Kappa Kappa Psi at the University of Colorado Boulder. An American Elegy is, above all, an expression of hope. It was composed in memory of those who lost their lives at Columbine High School on 20 April 1999, and to honor the survivors. It is offered as a tribute to their great strength and courage in the face of a terrible tragedy. I hope the work can also serve as one reminder of how fragile and precious life is and how intimately connected we all are as human beings. I was moved and honored by this commission invitation, and deeply inspired by the circumstances surrounding it. Rarely has a work revealed itself to me with such powerful speed and clarity. The first eight bars of the main melody came to me fully formed in a dream. Virtually every element of the work was discovered within the span of about two weeks. The remainder of my time was spent refining, developing, and orchestrating.
The work begins at the bottom of the ensemble’s register, and ascends gradually to a heartfelt cry of hope. The main theme that follows, stated by the horns, reveals a more lyrical, serene side of the piece. A second theme, based on a simple repeated harmonic pattern, suggests yet another, more poignant mood. These three moods—hope, serenity, and sadness—become intertwined throughout the work, defining its complex expressive character. A four-part canon builds to a climactic quotation of the Columbine Alma Mater. The music recedes, and an offstage trumpeter is heard, suggesting a celestial voice—a heavenly message. The full ensemble returns with a final, exalted statement of the main theme.
Simple Gifts: Four Shaker Songs (2002)
Simple Gifts was commissioned by Tapp Middle School in Powder Springs, Georgia, Erin Cole conductor. In setting these songs, I sought subtle ways to preserve their simple, straightforward beauty. Melodic freshness and interest were achieved primarily through variations of harmony, of texture and, especially, of orchestration.
The first movement is a setting of “In Yonder Valley”, generally regarded to be the oldest surviving Shaker song with text. This simple hymn in praise of nature is attributed to Father James Whittaker (1751–87), a member of the small group of Shakers who emigrated to America in 1774. The second movement, “Dance,” makes use of a tune from an 1830s Shaker manuscript. Dancing was an important part of Shaker worship, and tunes such as this were often sung by a small group of singers while the rest of the congregation danced. The third movement is based on a Shaker lullaby, “Here Take This Lovely Flower,” found in Dorothy Berliner Commin’s extraordinary collection, Lullabies of the World and in Daniel W. Patterson’s monumental collection, The Shaker Spiritual. This song is an example of the phenomenon of the gift song, music received from spirits by Shaker mediums while in a trance. The finale is a setting of the Shakers’ most famous song, “Simple Gifts,” sometimes attributed to Elder Joseph Bracket (1797–1882) of the Alfred, Maine community, and also said (in Lebanon, New York, manuscript) to have been received from a Negro spirit at Canterbury, New Hampshire, making “Simple Gifts” possibly a visionary gift song. It has been used in hundreds of settings, most notably by Aaron Copland in the brilliant set of variations that conclude his Appalachian Spring. Without ever quoting him, my setting begins at Copland’s doorstep, and quickly departs. Throughout its little journey, the tune is never abandoned, rarely altered, always exalted.
Aaron Copland (1900–90)
Aaron Copland is often called “the Dean of American Music.” He was essential in creating a distinct voice for American music and he carried this voice through all mediums. One of Copland’s most influential teachers was Nadia Boulanger, who inspired Copland and was one of his most important advocates, bringing him to the attention of Serge Koussevitzky and the Boston Symphony. His wider popular reputation in the United States was founded on his thoroughly American ballets—Billy the Kid, Rodeo and Appalachian Spring—and, less overtly, on his film scores, while a great variety of other compositions won him an unassailable position in American concert life.
Quiet City (arr. Hunsberger) (1941/92)
Irwin Shaw was a well-known American playwright and author. In 1939, he wrote Quiet City, the story of a New Yorker who gives up on his dreams and slowly loses his mind. Copland wrote incidental music for the production for an unusual ensemble that consisted of trumpet, saxophone, clarinets, and piano. The play never made it to stage as it lasted only a few readings; it was cancelled shortly afterwards. Copland feared that the disastrous outcome would ruin his career, but he was able to rework main themes from the music and turn it into Quiet City as we know it today. The orchestral version is for trumpet, English horn, and strings and was first premiered in 1941 by the Saidenberg Little Symphony. Quiet City was arranged for wind ensemble by Donald Hunsberger.
Variations on a Shaker Melody (1960)
Copland’s Variations on a Shaker Melody is an excerpt from the Pulitzer Prize winning ballet Appalachian Spring, a piece written for the choreographer Martha Graham. Copland wrote the setting for concert band in 1956 and premiered it with the Northwestern University Band in 1958. The piece was well received and an orchestral setting was made in 1967.
Program notes compiled by Ryan Webber
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