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World Premieres 2003 - 2005

Paper presented by Tim Reynish to WASBE 15th July 2005

I used as my introductory music a work by Chen Yi, recorded by the Singapore Symphony Orchestra in the Esplanade Hall

Dunhuang Fantasy (1999) (12 minutes). 1121 1110 P, Organ, available from Theodore Presser.

It was perhaps a pity that a composer whose aim is identical with the theme of Conference, East meets West, should have been represented only by her little work for middle school, Spring Festival. We might have heard the Dunhuang Fantasy or any one of several other works by one of China's leading composers:

  • Two sets of wind and percussion instruments for Picc, Bcl, and brass 6441 T 6perc
  • TU (2002) (13 minutes) version for symphonic wind ensemble
  • Suite for cello & chamber winds (2004) 1111 1110 P, Cello
  • KC Capriccio for wind ensemble & mixed choir

Many members will remember the vision of 1981 and the first Conference, bringing together composers, conductors and publishers; the important focus of our work was the interaction of the professionals involved in wind music, through concerts, discussions, through the library which represented every country. My own personal ideal of WASBE was always that we meet to play and discuss the greatest works at all levels of difficulty, whether for school, amateur, military, university, conservatoire or professional ensembles. This discussion should take place in conference and be continued in our publications, and we should feed back to the national and regional conferences and associations something of what we have experienced, a continuous process of sharing information about our developing repertoire. WASBE's primary job is to disseminate information carrying out our objective.

To promote symphonic bands and ensembles as serious and distinctive mediums of musical expression and culture

Curiously alongside WASBE, in the world of professional music, our non-WASBE colleagues, composers, conductors and publishers are pursuing that vision often with greater clarity, and I felt privileged during the week in Singapore to be able to repair to my room after a mediocre concert and to listen to the Singapore Symphony playing music by Chen Yi, or the Berlin Philharmonic playing Sir Simon Rattle's most recent commission, Heiner Goebbel's Aus Einen Tagebuch, or the London Symphony Orchestra playing Colin Matthews' Quatrain.

The two years since the last WASBE Conference have seen an unprecedented number of new works for wind ensemble, many on a large scale by major internationally renowned composers, and many more by less well known. More than seventy works were submitted for my clinic at WASBE and my thanks are due to WASBE Council members Dennis Johnson, Jim Ripley, Peter Bucher and Don DeRoche for suggesting pieces as well as members of the College Band Directors National Association.

I had over seventy works to introduce in sixty minutes, so I had to be very selective, leaving out some great pieces, which need to be investigated. I concentrated on five main areas:

  1. 1. Works by WASBE Composers
  2. 2. Major works from WASBE Conference 2003
  3. 3. Works by major international composers
  4. 3. Major works by less well-known figures
  5. 4. Choral works
  6. 5. Concertos

I have always believed that WASBE should provide information, especially on WASBE composer members. If I composed and joined WASBE I would want to see a list of my works posted, or at least a link to my website, and I would hope that conference and all the WASBE activities in between would help me professionally. We have a number of composers without a good commercial publishing machine promoting their music. This is where I believe WASBE has an important role to play on behalf of its composer members, offering them a platform at Conference if their work is good enough, but at least a place in our publications for everyone's information.

Wasbe Composers

Composer Work
Baldvinsson, Tryggvi Clarinet Concerto
Buerki, Mario Brand der Bern
Carroll, Fergal Song of Lir
Ellerby, Martin Via Crucis
Ewazen, Eric Southern Landscape
Gorb, Adam Dances from Crete
Marshall Christopher L'Homme Arme
Meij, Johan de Klezmer Classic
Pütz, Marco Clarinet Concerto
Pütz, Marco Derivations
Pütz, Marco Euphonium Concertino
Pütz, Marco Improvisation & Fugato
Reed, Alfred Twelfth Night
Waespi, Oliver Symphonic Variations
Wilson, Dana Black Nightshade

First, let me introduce two new clarinet concertos by WASBE members, Tryggvi Baldvinssonfrom Iceland and Marco Pütz from Luxembourg. Concertos for Clarinet and Wind are like London busses - you wait for ages, and then suddenly four come along altogether.

I have written about these two works elsewhere in my paper on Concertos for Clarinet and Wind Ensemble. Suffice it to say that both are serious works, cast in a traditional fairly tonal language, which escapes the clichés affecting so much wind music.

Over the last two decades I have been interested in the steady stream of imaginative work from WASBE member Marco Pütz. I am longing for opportunities to perform works like Meltdown,Praemonitio or the concertos for flute, horn or bass trombone. Marco writes excellently for professional and amateur groups. His Clarinet Concerto was commissioned by Don DeRoche to celebrate his 25th wedding anniversary... what a great idea. It was premiered by Don's wife Julie with Don conducting.

To give a clear idea of Marco's style, traditional, but with in my view sufficient melodic, harmonic and rhythmic interest to keep the attention, I played part of his newest concerto for brass solo, the Euphonium Concerto written for Stephen Mead. I am hoping to commission a Trumpet Concerto from him for next year.

I believe that Fergal Carroll has, in Song of Lir, achieved the almost impossible by writing an extended piece at Grade 3, seven minutes long, which holds children's attention. Our good friend Bill Berz has just recorded this.

New WASBE Council member Martin Ellerby has begun to forge new more serious musical paths in his most recent works. An example of that was recorded recently by the RNCM, his Via Crucis, scored for a solo cello and ensemble, the cellist taking the part of a pilgrim visiting the stations of the Cross on along the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem.

Eric Ewazen is a welcome delegate at our 2005 Conference; we have already heard the first movement of his Southern Landscape, a large-scale work very much in the American tradition.

If you enjoy Johan de Meij's music, or you enjoy Klezmer, the you will love playing his Klezmer Classics, and similarly if you are an Alfred Reed aficionado, you will enjoy the recently issued recording of his works based on Shakespeare plays, including his most recent large-scale work,Twelfth Night.

I must declare an interest in the two works by Adam Gorb and Chris Marshall, since I commissioned them as part of the series in memory of my third son, along with Fergal Carroll'sSong of Lir. Chris's piece was premiered in Sweden, so I will talk about it later. Adam's work had two movements played earlier in the week. In California, only four movements of Yiddish Danceswere played, resulting in truncated versions performed worldwide. We hope that the same will not happen to his terrific Dances from Crete, with its teasing second movement in 5/8 and painfully sad third movement, the tramp down through the Samaria Gorge.

I think one of the most exciting things for me in music is to meet a composer whose compositional art has steadily matured and is developing an exciting repertoire list. One such composer is undoubtedly Switzerland's Oliver Waespi. His Horn Concerto is a fine work, some of you will know Toccata, or Skies, we have already heard his latest piece this week, Il Cantico, and I want to recommend to you his Symphonic Variations. Written for the Swiss Army Band and premiered at last year's Mid-Europe and conducted by Jan Cober, this is based on a passage of chords rather than a theme, and is a deeply felt symphonic movement of considerable power that I want to programme next year.

Major Works from WASBE 2003

Composer Work
Bitensky, Laurence Awake you Sleepers
Hesketh, Kenneth Diaghilev Dances
Lindberg, Christian Concerto for Wind Orchestra
Marshall, Christopher L'Homme Armé
Pütz, Marco Dance Sequence
Tredici, David del In Time of War

I think it is easy at Conference to forget works, which will be useful for our future programming. I have conducted and heard David Del Tredici's In Time of War and I find it very powerful. A companion piece is Chris Marshall's L'Homme Armé, which I believe to be a major addition to the repertoire. L'Homme Armé is firmly rooted in the past in its use of traditional material from the Middle Ages, from Maori war cries, in its use of jazz and popular idioms. It begins with the fearful screams of air raid sirens and then proceeds with the main theme, Beware of the Armed Man.

Can I remind you too of a work by Marco Pütz premiered two years ago, intended at Grade 3-4 level his Dance Sequence commissioned by the WASBE schools network.

In a repertoire session in Sweden we heard a run through of Kenneth Hesketh's Diaghilev Dances an incredible reworking of the impressionist music of the 1920's with echoes of early Stravinsky and Ravel.

One of the many fine soloists in Jonkoping was Christian Lindberg who appeared as solo trombone, composer, conductor and publisher. His Concerto for Wind Orchestra is in a post Zappa rock idiom, bands and audiences love it.

Laurence Bitensky' s work for Trumpet and Ensemble Awake you Sleepers, based on the traditional calls of the shofar, was a huge success at the International Trumpet Guild conference in 2002. It appears on a Mark Custom CD with Adam's Dances from Crete, and he has written another wind work for Dennis Johnson and myself since, Hadra, I will introduce that piece later if I have time.

Wasbe And The "Profession"

WASBE has not yet made that important leap into becoming an important facet of the life and work of the music profession. We are still a young medium, and our membership is dominated by the amateur band and by school or university groups. However, I find it really exciting that more and more works for wind ensemble are being commissioned from leading professional composers. We could argue all day about who is and who is not a major composer, but my choice is of composers with an international reputation rather than national, who have contributed works recently.

Works By Major Composers

Composer Work
Corigliano, John Circus Maximus
Danielpour, Richard Voices of the City
Davies, Peter Maxwell Commemoration Sixty
Goebbels, Heiner Aus einen Tagebuch
Larsen, Libby De Toda da Eternidad
Schwantner, Joseph Recoil
Thomas, Augusta Read Dancing Galaxy

Corigliano's Circus Maximus drew the CBDNA Conference to a close in New York last February. Carnegie Hall resounded to an extraordinary surround work, eleven trumpets posted around the dress circle, a group of horns on the left, a saxophone quartet on the right, on stage a wind ensemble, behind us a marching band to be unleashed towards the end.

Danielpour's orchestral music has an extraordinary lyrical quality, and his Voices of the City was a huge disappointment at CBDNA, since only one movement could be played. I am longing to hear the second movement.

Peter Maxwell Davies has taken his duties as Master of the Queen's Music very seriously, with a lecture which lambasted contemporary trends in music education and the dumbing down of culture, and a swinging attack on government for invading Iraq. Commemoration Sixty was commissioned by Her Majesty The Queen, and the British Legion to honour the sixtieth anniversary of the end of World War 2, and is scored imaginatively for band, Symphony orchestra, chorus and boys choirs, and is reminiscent of the choral music of Britten. He also wrote a short march for the Central Band of the British Legion, but I found this unconvincing, and grotesquely out of tune at its premiere.

Perhaps the most exciting and original concept is that of Heiner Goebbels, Aus Einen Tagebuchin a work commissioned by Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. Goebbels is one of the most exciting composers in Germany today, and the work caused a sensation in Germany, in England at the BBC Proms and on the tour of USA. It is an elusive piece, combining minimalism, high-density virtuosity, and funky pop influences with a sure step. The opening inhabits the world of the expressionists and the 2nd Viennese School; the first gestures might be from Pierrot Lunaire. The second section has a keyboard sampler providing a steady beat, a little like a Texas Marching Band, underneath incredible virtuoso passages thrown between wind and brass.

I have no information about Libby Larsen's new piece, but I hope it is not a "band" piece. Her first work Fascinating Ribbons, was the result of a CBDNA Commission, after she had been to a conference and presumably learned what is expected of an American Wind Band. This I find with Augusta Thomas Read's Dancing Galaxy, which actually began life as an orchestral piece but was re-scored for Frank Battisti. As with so much transatlantic music, it is exciting and aggressive, with not enough contrast for me, contrast that might emphasise the lyrical side of the wind ensemble. It starts with brooding basses, which boil into a very virtuoso section. The latest work from Joseph Schwantner Recoil I find a little academic and contrived but it does have some exciting sounds.

Commissioned By Amateur Groups

Composer Work
Beurden, Bernard van Boulevard des Miseres
Carroll, Fergal Song of Lir
Egea, J Vincent Timanfaya
Meij, Johan de Klezmer Classic
Pütz, Marco Derivations
Pütz, Marco Improvisation & Fugato
Sunbo, Geir Contrasts
Wood, Gareth The Cauldron

Boulevard dès Misères by Bernard van Beurden should perhaps be listed under Choral Works. He wrote to me about this major work, premiered in five Dutch cities this summer:
Why the title? During the second world war there was in Holland a concentration camp only for Jews. From that camp left every Tuesday a train with men, women and children to Auszwitz, Trelibor and other camps in Germany and Poland where they were killed. The road from the barracks to the train was called by the Jews: Boulevard des Misères, a very cynical name. Over 200,000 Jews were killed. The first train left on July 15th, 1942.
That day is commemorated in July next on the 15th. Because of this commemoration they gave me a commission to write a composition. I also wrote the text, put together from German documents, poetry and prose of the prisoners and interviews. I also used Jewish folksongs and the text is in different languages, German, Dutch, Hebrew, and Yiddish. It is scored for 3 male singers, female choir, 2 actors (they only speak ) and a youth wind orchestra. I made my choice for such an orchestra because I think it is very important to involve our youth in this part of a terrible history.

There is as always interesting work being done in Norway. WASBE member Arild Anderson sent Geir Sunbo's Contrasts, which his amateur band commissioned for performance at the Trondheim Contest last Spring. No compromise with what amateur musicians are supposed to enjoy here.

Choral Music
Composer Work
Beurden, Bernard van Skyloom
Susan Botti Cosmosis
Navok, Lior Gleams from the Bosom of Darkness
Phibbs, Joseph Rainland

Bernard van Beurden is a composer who has interested me for some time. His Concertino for Soprano Saxophone and ensemble and his concerto for Bassoon are striking and well wrought, his music has been sadly neglected by WASBE conferences since 1993 when his Messe was played in Spain. He is clear on his aims to avoid clichéd scoring and content.

Skyloom is a choral work based on poems from Indian folklore and is scored for a narrator, choir and wind orchestra. The opening features native Indian drumming figurations, and much of the choral writing is diatonic and relatively simple.

Similar in content is Rainland by Joseph Phibbs - it was premiered at the Royal Albert Hall by choirs and wind orchestra involving over 1600 children ignored by the national press. Starting with a thunderstorm, it moves along gently with use of pentatonic scales, ostinati, simple choral writing aimed at inexperienced voices.

Cosmosis by Susan Botti was a highlight of the CBDNA Conference. Telling the tale of a spider who was taken into space to see if she would still weave her webs, it was performed by Susan Botti herself as soloist, with women's choir and wind orchestra, I found the language and soundworld to be absolutely compelling.

Concertos

Composer Work
Chihara, Paul Dances at a Gathering (solo violin &v cello)
Daugherty, Michael Brooklyn Bridge (solo clarinet)
Ellerby, Martin Via Crucis (solo cello)
Hoddinott, Alun Euphonium Concerto
Lemay, Robert Dial M for... (Alto Saxophone)
Martin, Frank Concerto for Wind & Piano
McNeff, Stephen Clarinet Concerto
Mower, Mike Flute Concerto
Mower, Mike Saxophone Concerto
Pütz, Marco Clarinet Concerto
Pütz, Marco Euphonium Concertino
Rosauro, Ney Timpani Concerto
Yi, Chen Suite for Cello & Wind Ensemble
Wilson, Dana Black Nightshade (4 Percussion)
Zikowicz, Nebojsa Tales from the Centre of the Earth

I have always advocated the commissioning of concertos for two reasons:

  1. 1. To give a focus to the concert and take the heat off the wind orchestra
  2. 2. To involve wind soloists from the rest of the profession to get involved in our music making and concert giving.

Paul Chihara's work is an impressive blending of string instruments with a contrasting lightly scored wind accompaniment. The Hoddinott concerto is a transcription by the composer of the concerto with brass band accompaniment, and it is technically challenging in an exciting abrasive idiom. The same might be said about Canadian composer Robert Lemay, whose Dial M... won first prize in last year's competition in Harlbeke.

Two more Clarinet Concertos emerged last Spring, Stephen McNeff's fine work premiered by Linda Merrick and Mark Heron in Finland, and Brooklyn Bridge by Michael Daugherty, showing a more lyrical side to Michael's work, premiered at the CBDNA Conference in New York this Spring.

I wonder how many of you know the name Mike Mower and his group and publishing company Itchy Fingers. Mike has built a huge reputation and following in the realm of jazz as a flute player and composer, and in the past two years he has written two concertos very much in the jazz idiom, one for flute, one for saxophone. Both works are in the traditional three movement form; there is an enormous energy and exuberance about Mike' style which is infectious.

(Play out to Mike Mower's Saxophone Concerto played by Miles Osland and the University of Kentucky, conducted by Cody Birdwell)

My thanks to everyone who sent scores and recordings. There is no doubt that there are many fine composers who are getting caught up in the excitement of writing for the wind ensemble or wind band, and this augurs well for our next conference in Ireland.