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ClassicsOnline Home » COLLAGE - A Celebration of the 150th Anniversary of the Peabody Institute, 1857-2007
Glinka’s ever-popular overture to Ruslan and Lyudmilla sets the stage for a journey through the wind band repertoire that includes one of its cornerstones, Theme and Variations by Arnold Schoenberg. After this densely orchestrated masterwork, the listener can relax with the charming Suite in D by Arthur Bird, which was commissioned by flutist Claude Paul Taffenel. The full wind band returns with a suite written by British composer Guy Woolfenden, and then moves to Holsinger’s To Tame the Perilous Skies, a programmatic composition that depicts two opposing forces colliding in battle. The finale is one of the great marches by Sousa, here performed with an altered orchestration that reflects Sousa’s own live performances.
COLLAGE: A Celebration of the 150th Anniversary of the Peabody Institute 1857-2007
Glinka: Overture to Ruslan and Ludmilla
Mikhail Glinka is considered the father of modern Russian Nationalism in music, and after the success of his first opera, A Life for the Tsar, the director of the Imperial Theater in St. Petersburg persuaded Glinka write a second opera. This opera, Ruslan and Ludmilla, was to adapt Pushkin's poem of the same name. But before Pushkin could start work on the libretto, he was killed in a duel, causing Glinka to begin work on the opera without a librettist. When a librettist was found, Glinka was unhappy with the product and called in other librettists to work on it, and at times stepped in himself to rewrite some of the sections. Even though the opera was not as well received as A Life for the Tsar, it was later recognized as stronger work from the artistic standpoint.
The Overture opens with a driving rhythmic statement, then gives away to the first of two themes, which is lithe and quick. The second theme is much more relaxed and performed in the mid-ranges of the cellos. Glinka presents theme fragments and the themes in their entirety throughout the overture before the coda comes alive with an increased tempo. This transcription by Mark Hindsley does an excellent job translating the colors of the original overture to the wind band medium.
Schoenberg: Theme and Variations for wind band, Op. 43a
The Theme and Variations was written in 1943, eight years before the composer's death. Composed after Schoenberg had abandoned an exclusively atonal approach to composition, the G minor tonality of the Theme and Variations is clearly defined. Harmonically, these seven variations on a 21-bar theme which are played without break, are not daring or extravagant, but in them one may see a mastery of connection of thought and motivic division, an art of development, and a variety of character for which parallels can be found only among Schoenberg's own works.
The Theme and Variations was commissioned by Schoenberg's publisher, G. Schirmer. The following excerpts from the composer's correspondence describe the conception of the piece:
"My dear friend, the late Carl Engel, then president of the G. Schirmer, Inc., had asked me frequently to write a piece for wind band. He complained that the great number of such bands had an important influence on the development of love for music in America, but unfortunately, there are only a small number of good original compositions available, while for the most of their playing they are limited to arrangements. A considerable part of these arrangements reveals a poor or at least a low taste; and besides, they are not even well orchestrated … It is one of those works that one writes in order to enjoy one's own virtuosity and, in addition, to give a group of amateurs—in this case, wind bands—something better to play. I can assure you—and I think I can prove it—that as far as technique is concerned it is a masterpiece; and I know it was inspired. Not only because I cannot write even ten measures without inspiration, but I really wrote the piece with great pleasure."
It is interesting to note that while Schoenberg intended this work for the amateur wind band, performance experience had shown the piece to be of such a level of difficulty that it had been performed only by unusually advanced ensembles. Schoenberg, therefore, transcribed the work for orchestra as Opus 43b, and it enjoys the unusual position of being one of the few works in the orchestral repertoire, which was originally conceived for the wind band.
Program Notes for Band
Used by permission
Bird: Suite in D for ten winds
Arthur Bird's Suite in D for ten winds, an unnumbered opus in four movements (Allegro moderato, Andante moderato, Allegretto quasi Allegro and Allegro con fuoco) was commissioned by the flautist Claude Paul Taffenel, conductor of the Opera and the Conservatory Concerts in Paris, for his Society of Wind Instruments. It was composed in mid-1889, following Bird's Opus 28. The Musical Courier announced on 30 October 1889 that "Mr Arthur Bird, the American Bizet … has just finished (the) Suite", and it was available in autograph by correspondence with the composer through the magazine.
Its first American performance did not occur until 10 February 1908, when the Longy Club presented it in Boston at the end of a programme that included A. Magnard's Quintet, Op. 8, and Mozart's Trio for oboe, clarinet and bassoon. Harvard composer Edward Burlingame Hill noted:
"This Suite is a pleasing and melodious composition. It is coherent and well-developed in form. It lies easily within the range of the instruments, and displays no little knowledge of their resources. Moreover, its musical sentiment is pleasing and fluent throughout. It pleases by virtue of the simplicity, directness and unaffected manner in which the musical thought is unfolded."
From the front material of the score
Gallimaufry by Guy Woolfenden was commissioned by the British Association of Symphonic Bands and Wind Ensembles and North West Arts in 1983, and dedicated to Trevor Nunn, then artistic director of the Royal Shakespeare Company. It was first performed by the Royal Northern College of Music Wind Orchestra, conducted by the composer, on 24 September 1983. The suite was inspired by Shakespeare's Henry IV plays and derived from music written for the Royal Shakespeare Company productions which had opened London's Barbican Theatre in 1982.
The composer defines "gallimaufry" as "a medley; any confused jumble of things; a hotchpotch made up of all the scraps of the larder, as in Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale, 'a gallimaufry of gambols'". The close relationship of the thematic material in each section produces a continuous suite which captures the spirit of the age. The sections are (1) Church and State–Leadership, the establishment, temporal and ecclesiastical power; (2) Inn and Out – The Boar's Head Tavern, the Stews, low-life revel; (3) Starts and Fits – Tavern brawl, Gadshill ambush, Pistol "the swaggerer" evicted, Mistress Quickly's rescue; (4) Father and Son – Relationship of King Henry and Falstaff to Prince Hal, real and surrogate parent; (5) Advance and Retreat – Recruiting march, derived from the Tavern tune; (6) Church and Status Quo – Falstaff rejected, Hal becomes King, order restored.
Program Notes for Band
Used by permission.
Holsinger: To Tame the Perilous Skies
To Tame the Perilous Skies, commissioned by the 564th Tactical Air Command Band, Langley AFB, Virginia, received its première performance under the baton of Lt. Col. Lowell Graham in the fall of 1990.
Although it leaves the story-line completely to the listener's imagination, Perilous Skies was conceived as a programmatic work literally depicting two opposing forces colliding in battle. The elongated canonic introduction presents a six-pitch intervallic display that is used throughout the composition, both as an intact melodic statement and a fragmented germative device, to depict every extra-musical element from serenity to air war to triumphal deliverance. A second melodic element, an imitative fanfare-like motif, first heard in the solo trumpet 120 seconds into the composition, serves repeatedly as counterpoint to all music generated from the opening interval display.
In the spring of 1990, as the news media paid tribute to the fiftieth anniversary of the air battle for Britain, I envisioned this new work as a tribute to the modern fighter pilot. Little did I realise the prophetic nature of the work, when at the time of its première, United Nations forces were assembling in the Persian Gulf, and only a few months later the world watched as modern technological air power "tamed the perilous skies" over Iraq and Kuwait.
In retrospect then, let this work be dedicated not only to the exceptional men and women of the Tactical Air Command, but to the spirit of the modern military aviator, taming perilous skies that all men might live free of tyranny and oppression.
David R. Holsinger
Three years after Sousa was inducted into the Knights Templar of Washington, D.C., he dedicated this march to that organization. The Thunderer was Mrs Sousa's favourite march and was chosen by Sousa as one of five to be featured by his Great Lakes Naval Training Station Band on their tour on behalf of the American Red Cross During World War I. The second section included an adaptation of "here's Your Health, Sir!" which Sousa had written for his 1886 collection Trumpet and Drum.
At the time this march was written, Sousa was 35 years of age. He had led the Marine Band for nine years and was considered an outstanding conductor and composer. However, he was still naive in many business matters. Before he changed publishers in 1892, and began to make his own business arrangements, he sold many of his most popular marches, including The Thunderer, for $35 each.
Program Notes for Band
Used by permission.
This performance utilizes a practice similar to what Sousa would do in performance, by altering the orchestration during various strains. Even though what we did was not as complex as Sousa's performances, we hope you enjoy the slight changes made to honour John Philip Sousa.
Harlan D. Parker
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