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ClassicsOnline Home » STAMP, J.: In this hid clearing… / COPLAND, A.: Lincoln Portrait / GERSHWIN, G.: Catfish Row (University of Missouri Symphonic Wind Ensemble)
This disc celebrates both the quality and variety of the internationally popular American wind band repertoire. Gershwin’s Catfish Row includes several hits as well as music cut from Porgy and Bess, while Grainger’s Country Gardens and Blithe Bells are heard in delightful
arrangements. Gordon Jacob’s Suite showcases the lighthearted, solemn and powerful potential of the symphonic wind band. Intricate counterpoint contrasts with brass chorales in Stamp’s In this hid clearing…Copland’s Lincoln Portrait, an American classic, can also be
heard in its orchestral guise on Naxos 8.559373–74.
By David Denton
In this hid clearing…
Gordon Jacob • Jack Stamp • Aaron Copland • Percy Grainger • George Gershwin
Gordon Jacob (1895–1985): Suite in B flat
Gordon Jacob originally composed his Suite in B flat for brass band in 1955, and orchestrated it for concert band in 1979. The first movement, March, calls for a lively style in the opening melody, followed by a broad melody, full of character and appearing in a number of guises, before a return to the lively opening theme. Solemn Music contains some of the composer’s most poignant writing for band. Majestic and noble in character, it calls for great tonal dignity and control. The Finale, portrays the composer’s wit, providing the listener with a spry theme, only briefly interrupted by a reflective contrast, before returning to the original melody.
Gordon Jacob ranks among the leading composers for concert band. Interestingly, his first practical knowledge of composition was gained from an orchestration book he obtained from the prison camp library during his internment during World War I. Following the war, Jacob studied at the Royal College of Music. In his final year as a student, he arranged a suite of William Byrd keyboard pieces for a festival in Oxford, and in 1924, he re-scored the suite for military band at the request of Sir Adrian Boult. Jacob’s works for concert band include An Original Suite, Concerto for Symphonic Band, Fantasy for Euphonium and Concert Band, Ceremonial Music, Festal Music, Symphony AD 78, and Concerto for Timpani and Wind Band, which received its first performance soon after his death.
Notes from the conductor’s score, published by G. and M. Brand British Music Publishers
Jack Stamp (b. 1954): In this hid clearing…
The composer writes:
In this hid clearing…was written in the summer of 2001 while I was on vacation in the state of Maine. The piece was commissioned by the University of Missouri-Columbia to honor the inaugural season of Tom O’Neal as their Director of Bands. I have known Tom since the summer of 1983, and we have remained the best of friends since that time. Tom is one of those friends who, no matter how long it has been since we’ve seen each other, when we meet, we pick up right where we left off. The work was a labor of love as I tried to write a slow, mostly quiet work to reflect the importance of friendships through the best and worst of times. On its première, Tom viewed the work more programmatically as descriptive of the life of our friendship. The work is meant to be reflective and honest.
Aaron Copland (1900–1990): Lincoln Portrait (arranged by Walter Beeler)
During the last 37 years of Aaron Copland’s life, he accumulated 26 honorary doctorates from American and British institutions of higher learning, including Columbia, Harvard, and Princeton; Yale awarded him its Howland Memorial Prize. When he died in 1990, The New York Times devoted almost a full page to his obituary. However, from the standpoint of political freedom—and it meant an enormous amount to him—his long life did not always run smoothly. He found himself immersed in the McCarthy era of the 1940s and 1950s. In the April 4, 1949 issue of Life magazine, Copland was castigated, along with Charlie Chaplin, Albert Einstein, Lillian Hellman, Langston Hughes, Norman Mailer, and others under the headline DUPES AND FELLOW TRAVELLERS DRESS UP COMMUNIST FRONTS. Fifteen years later, in a 1964 White House ceremony, Lyndon B. Johnson presented Aaron Copland his country’s highest civilian award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Copland learned the hard way that freedom, as Norwin Corwin once remarked, must be exercised, like a healthy muscle.
Aaron Copland’s notes regarding Lincoln Portrait are:
It was January, 1942, that Andre Kostelanetz suggested the idea of my writing a musical portrait of a great American. He put teeth into the proposal by offering to commission such a piece and to play it extensively. My first thought was to do a portrait of Walt Whitman, the patron poet of all American composers. But when Mr Kostelanetz explained that the series of portraits that he was planning already included a literary figure, I was persuaded to change to a statesman. From that moment on the choice of Lincoln as my subject seemed inevitable.
On discussing my choice with Virgil Thompson, he amiably pointed out that no composer could possibly hope to match in musical terms the stature of so eminent a figure as that of Lincoln. Of course he was quite right. But secretly I was hoping to avoid the difficulty by doing a portrait in which the sitter himself might speak. With the voice of Lincoln to help me I was ready to risk the impossible.
The letters and speeches of Lincoln supplied the text. It was a comparatively simple matter to choose a few excerpts that seemed particularly opposite to our own situation today. I avoided the temptation to use only well-known passages, permitting myself the luxury of quoting only once from a world-famous speech. The order and arrangement of the selections are my own.
The first sketches were made in February and the portrait finished on April 16. The orchestration was completed a few weeks later. I worked with musical materials of my own, with the exception of two songs of the period: the famous Camptown Races and a ballad that was first published in 1840 under the title of The Pesky Serpent, but is better known today as Springfield Mountain. In neither case is the treatment a literal one. The tunes are used freely, in the manner of my use of cowboy songs in Billy the Kid.
The composition is roughly divided into three main sections. In the opening section I wanted to suggest something of the mysterious sense of fatality that surrounds Lincoln’s personality. Also, near the end of that section, something of his gentleness and simplicity of spirit. The middle section briefly sketches in the background of the times he lived in.
This merges into the concluding section where my sole purpose was to draw a simple but impressive frame about the words of Lincoln himself.
Lincoln Portrait is dedicated to Andre Kostelanetz.
Used by permission
Percy Aldridge Grainger (1882–1961): Blithe Bells
Blithe Bells is a remarkable composition, and in common with so many of Grainger’s works, it is unlike all of the others. During the late 1920s Grainger developed a growing passion for the music of J. S. Bach and earlier composers. He was also a great admirer of Leopold Stokowski, whose arrangements of Bach for the Philadelphia Orchestra were then much in the public’s favour. In 1931, the year of this composition, he had developed a friendship with the musicologist and early music specialist, Gustav Reese. Another friend was composer Henry Cowell, a leading exponent of new music and a close associate and leading champion of the music of Charles Ives. While it is pure (but somewhat informed) speculation to suppose that Grainger had learned of Ives’s music through Cowell, one cannot escape some similarities between Blithe Bells and the quotational compositions of Ives. However, Grainger’s treatment of Bach’s Sheep May Safely Graze begins in the style of Stokowski’s great transcriptions, brightened with a dash of Grainger’s beloved mallet percussion. Then, rather than simply quoting Bach, as Ives might have done, the music begins to sound as if Grainger has swallowed Bach, digested him and by some mysterious and rather delicious process, both composers merge and emerge as equals, with a tiny dash of George Gershwin supplying connective tissue.
By permission of the author, Keith Brion
Percy Aldridge Grainger: Country Gardens (edition by John Philip Sousa)
Regarding Country Gardens, Percy Grainger wrote, in a letter to Frederick Fennell:
“The Morris Dance tunes Country Gardensand Shepherd’s Hey are instrumental versions of songs long popular in the English country-side under the titles The Vicar of Bray and Keel Row. When Cecil Sharp discovered the Morris Dance versions around 1908, he sent them to me with the remark: “I’ll think you will find them effective to arrange.’ But I did not arrange Country Gardens until I was a bandsman in the U.S. Army. Our band would take part in Liberty Loan drives and I would be asked to improvise at the piano—without much response from the audience. But I thought of Country Gardens as a likeable and lively little tune that might please. So I tried it and sure enough, it was popular at once. So I wrote it down in the barracks.”
Sousa’s scoring was obviously based on a Grainger piano roll, or on the published sheet music. Besides using his own orchestration, Sousa’s setting differs mainly from other versions with some extra linkage passages at the end of phrases and the fermata xylophone rolls at the end.
By permission of the author, Keith Brion
George Gershwin (1898–1937): Catfish Row (arranged by Donald Hunsberger)
In the years between 1924 and 1934, Gershwin wrote some of his most enduring works, including Rhapsody in Blue (1924), Concerto in F for Piano and Orchestra (1925), An American in Paris (1928), the Second Rhapsody for Piano and Orchestra (1932), Cuban Overture (1932), and Variations on “I Got Rhythm” for piano and orchestra (1934). During this time, he frequently expressed a desire to compose an opera since he felt that vocal writing was one of his strongest compositional attributes.
In 1927, the New York Theatre Guild produced the play Porgy, based upon a novel of the same name by DuBose Heyward. Gershwin had been given the book by friends the preceding year and grew increasingly interested in its story of a crippled black beggar in Charleston, South Carolina, and his life in the poor, rundown section of the city.
Gershwin began composing Porgy and Bess in 1932, in collaboration with Heyward and with his brother Ira Gershwin, who actually cast the text into a form George could set to music. A Boston preview of the completed work was enthusiastically received, with Serge Koussevitsky calling it “a great advance in American opera.” However, a New York run did not fare well, and a decision was made to create a company tour to help control production costs. As a means of introducing the opera to local audiences in Philadelphia—prior to the actual production opening there—Gershwin assembled an orchestral suite from his opera score. In preparing the suite, he extracted five sections and bridged them skillfully into a compendium of the opera’s music, including many instrumental passages that had been jettisoned in Boston. The result is a well-balanced piece—more than just a collage of the opera’s most popular songs—as he placed the music almost identically in the order that it appears in the opera. Thus, musical interest and development does not depend on any knowledge of the plot.
The suite was performed numerous times, with Gershwin conducting, prior to his death. It then lay unnoticed until Ira reintroduced it in the 1950s with the title Catfish Row, a move to separate and identify it from the Symphonic Suite, published in 1941 by Robert Russell Bennett. In this edition for wind ensemble, by Donald Hunsberger, the original voice assignments have been restored. (Gershwin, in creating his original suite, had transferred all vocal lines into solo and sectional orchestral timbres.)
Notes from Eastman Wind Ensemble at 50 (used by permission from Donald Hunsberger)
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STAMP, J.: In this hid clearing… / COPLAND, A.: Li...