Review Of Selected Premieres 2005-2007
Killarney was the second WASBE Conference at which I was accepted to give an overview of new works in the previous two years. As before, my thanks are due to the many conductors and composers who sent information and sometimes scores and CDs of new works of significance premiered since the last WASBE Conference in 2007. With over 250 works proposed, my lecture merely skimmed the surface. If anyone needs more information, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will try to respond as soon as possible.
An additional excitement was the joy of attending four superb conferences, in Stuttgart , Ann Arbor , Glasgow and Killarney. Meeting composers and conductors, hearing new music, this is the very stuff of WASBE, BASBWE and CBDNA. Of course, there were many good or even great pieces played at the four conferences... of the new pieces, I would like to conduct Oliver Waespi's Temples, Guy Woolfenden's Divertimento, Passacagli by Timothy Jackson, the arrangement of the Cor Anglais Concerto by Peteris Vasks, the song cycle Image in Stone by Stephen McNeff and Hymn for Africa by Peter Meechan. There are other pieces at school and community level which are useful, and there are certainly a number at professional level. What a great year it has been.
Role For Wasbe
It has been a fascinating and sometimes frustrating task to put together this biennial listing of new works for wind ensemble, fascinating because of the wealth of great music being composed, frustrating because of the lack of information sometimes available. Both WASBE and CBDNA give generous space to previews or reports of new pieces, but rarely do they give information on duration, orchestration and publication, so that the busy band director might well decide to save time and programme something that he or can find easily in the library. I have very few other contacts, with Europe or with Asia , so a great deal has to be achieved by trawling through the web. It would be wonderful if all of this information was collated officially and efficiently by WASBE and disseminated world-wide to all of the other wind associations as a WASBE resource.
Outline Of Lecture
My lecture concentrated on six areas:
- A-Z Of Contemporary Wind Music
- Major Composers
- Reynish Commissioning Project
- Works By Wasbe Composers & Publishers
- The Jazz Element - Crossover
- BCM & John Mackey
- Valencia Spain - Valencia Ireland
One of the few things I remember from Geography was the teasing question "compare and contrast the climate of Valencia , Spain , and Valencia , Ireland ". The answer was that it rains in Valencia Ireland and it doesn't in Spain . There have always been strong links between Irelandand Spain , so it was perhaps fitting to start the lecture with an A - Z of contemporary wind music beginning in Spain . WASBE held a conference in Spain in 1993, reportedly a huge success, but sadly we have learned little about Spanish music since. In Sweden I arranged three colleagues to give lectures, and they are still working in this specialized field, so for information on the Spanish scene go to their websites.
A Is For Alarcon - and Marco Polo
The Dutch conductor and publisher, Frank de Vuyst, is editor for the major Spanish publisher, Piles, and also conductor of one of the principal Spanish wind orchestras. Frank sent me this summer a great video recording of the 2006 Certamen in Valencia, with a performance of Marco Polo by Luis Alarcon, premiered by Banda Sinfónica de la Unión Musical Utielana conducted by Frank. I played the audience in with this DVD, with its extraordinary range of colour, featuring as it does a number of ethnic wind, string and percussion instruments. This is to my mind a major addition to our repertoire. The sheer virtuosity of Spanish bands and the cut-throat competition in their contests results in some wonderful music. Frank de Vuyst has sent a scores of Marco Polo and Preludio y Danza del Alba for brass quintet and band, and mentions De Tiempo y Quirnera which I believe has been programmed by Felix Hauswirth. Alarcon is a composer to be watched.
Z IS FOR ZYMAN - and CYCLES
Samuel Zyman is a distinguished teacher from Juilliard, one of three Mexican composers to be included this year. I first came across Zyman's work when I joined a consortium put together by Gary Ciepluch to commission his Duo Concerto. Cycles was premiered in 2005 and is now available on a fine recording by Steven Steele and Illinois State on TROY 821. It is in a restless, jazzy style, the first of many crossover works featured in this talk, reminiscent in its changing metres of Gorb's Metropolis with which it shares a delight in colour and rhythmic urgency
As a rough guide to "great" composers, I simply took a list of the winners of the Grawemeyer Award as a kind of blueprint for those whom WASBE might be inviting to write:- Currier, Kurtag, Tsontakis, Unsuk Chin, Saariaho, Kernis, Boulez, Ades, Tan Dun, Simon Bainbridge, Tcherepnin, Adams, Takemitsu, Husa, Joan Towers, Chinary Ung, Penderecki, Corigliano, Birtwistle, Ligeti and Lutoslawski are all award winners. Most of them are either dead or have never written for wind. When Frederick Speck was asked to put on a concert at Carnegie Hall including wind music by these "great" composers, he struggled to find repertoire - a pair of fanfares byLutoslawski and Takemitsu, a new commission from Karel Husa, a CBDNA commission from Joan Tower, all of which he programmed brilliantly at WASBE, and an arrangement of a movement by John Corigliano, though he might have chosen a work by Chinary Ung, Grand Spirals. So a survey of composers of international stature who have contributed to our genre in the past two years will be sadly very brief. Since Singapore there has been nothing to match the excitement of the Corigliano Symphony no 3, Circus Maximus, the intensity of Simon Rattle's commission for the Berlin Philharmonic from Heiner Goebbels, or the intriguing works by David del Tredici and Richard Danielpour. Too many of our commissions in the past two years have been from academe.
|Christopher Rouse||Wolf Rounds|
|Steven Stucky||Hue and Cry|
As usual there seems to have been little or no national or international press covering these. However, Fred Speck was at Conference and performed Cheetah in his concert with Louisville , and Gary Green had hoped to be there to introduce Wolf Rounds to us all. There is a score of Steven Stucky's Hue and Cry in the WASBE Score Library, and a recording of his Concerto forPercussion and Wind for which WASBE was part of the commissioning consortium. Hue and Crywas a joint commission between Eastman and Cornell, and is a short very energetic fun piece for wind ensemble without saxophones.
It is 16 years since WASBE last featured music by David Chaitkin, his Summersong was programmed in the 1991 WASBE Conference, played by the BBC Philharmonic conducted by Gunther Schuller. I find a wonderful luminosity and lyricism in his music and a refreshing delight in colour. Chaitkin wrote to me recently about his latest piece.
My new Celebration for winds was indeed premiered on March 4 by the U.S. Marine Band, which commissioned it. The piece, in one movement, is about 12 minutes in duration, and scored for 23 wind instruments and a contrabass. I enjoyed writing for the same ensemble (minus the bass) so much in Summersong that I decided to have another go at it.
To this tiny group I would add two other works which I think have stature. First I would like to play part of Gleams from the Bosom of Darkness by the Israeli composer, Lior Navok. His music was described recently by the Boston Globe as colorful, haunting, accomplished and exciting. Gleams actually dates from 2002, but its premiere is recent. It is an extraordinary bit of writing and one of the most exciting finds for me in this two years.
Richard Danielpour is another New Yorker, one of the most distinctive voices of the American scene - the first movement of his Voice of the City was premiered in 2005, and I very much hope that he will finish the second movement and that we can hear the whole work this Fall. In the first movement, jazz elements, hints of Bernstein in the funky accompaniment, perhaps of Varese in the obsessive little opening phrases, bitonality, minimalism but with plenty of variety, all rubbing shoulders in what I find to be a compulsive language. This is a portrait of the City as a jungle.
Opera - Bandanna & The Scarecrow
Perhaps the most exciting wind ensemble events of the past two years has been in the field of opera with one major recording of Daron Hagen's Bandanna and a series of productions of Joseph Turrin's The Scarecrow.
I was contacted during the year by Joseph Turrin with details of The Scarecrow. You can hear the whole opera on his website, http://www.josephturrin.com/music.html
This is a major addition to the repertoire, the overture itself would make an excellent concert number, and the first line of the first aria must bid to be one of the most memorable ever.
When I Was A Young Witch, The Women Snarled At Me
The other is the release of a recording of Bandana with University of Nevada at Las Vegas wind orchestra and chorus; Hagen describes the opera as an aggressive, manic, emotionally overwrought, progressive piece of American opera, equal parts opera and music theatre
Hagen's masterful score captures the rage, intrigue, and tender resignation of the tale." Jerry Young, Austin American Statesman, 2/99
"You will find Bandanna's weave most intricate."Andrew Osborn, Boston - Review, 3-4/99
"Sonorous, highly-varied, rhythmically gripping, dramatic music; one can scarcely imagine another living composer pulling it off." Clarino Magazine, Germany
"The drama is powered by a strong emotional thrust, most of it conveyed in the form of popular song, and leads to a shattering climax."Read Ireland, Book Reviews, Ireland
William Reynish Commissioning Project
Since Singapore , I have commissioned eleven works in memory of our third son, William.
|Berkeley, Michael||Slow Dawn||OUP|
|Hesketh, Kenneth||Cloud of Unknowing||Schott|
|Horne, David||Waves and Refrains||Boosey & Hawkes|
|McNeff, Stephen||Image in Stone||Maecenas|
|Pütz, Marco||Trumpet Concerto||Bronsheim|
|Roxburgh, Edwin||Elegy for Ur (solo oboe and ensemble)||Maecenas|
|Roxburgh, Edwin||Aeolian Carillons||Maecenas|
Nine pieces are by professional composers with no particular attachment to the wind ensemble world, and of these, three are attached to British orchestras as composer in residence, Michael Berkeley to the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Stephen McNeff to the Bournemouth Symphony and Kenneth Hesketh to the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic where he was preceded by David Horne. McNeff and Berkeley have a burgeoning international reputation in the opera house. Edwin Roxburgh has recently completed a massive opera, Chris Marshall's international reputation is largely based on his choral music, while Timothy Jackson follows a renaissance-like career as composer, conductor, natural and modern horn player, jazz pianist.
Two then are more involved with wind music, though not exclusively; Fergal Carroll is a conductor in Ireland with one of the military bands, Marco Pütz is a fine saxophone player and teacher in Luxembourg, and is perhaps best known as a specialist in wind music, usually for amateur bands.
Works For The Professional Wind Ensemble
It is tempting to divide these recent commissions into two genres. In the first we might include those "serious" works aimed at the "professional" wind ensemble, Slow Dawn, Cloud of Unknowing, Waves and refrains, Resonance, Image in Stone and Elegy for Ur.
Michael Berkekey's Slow Dawn is short, cogent and wonderfully austere, sharing the sound world perhaps of Judith Bingham's Bright Spirit. David Horne is one of the brightest talents in Englandof today. He is a pianist and educationalist, his studies took him to Curtis Institute and Harvard, and he now is back in Manchester where he teaches at the RNCM.
Horne's music can be viewed both as a response, and as a reaction, to modernism. His language has evolved naturally from the classically-orientatated modernist masters, exploring essentially abstract musical ideas. Yet Horne deploys these with an attractive lyricism, an impressionistic ear for instrumentation, and with invigorating energy
The young Edwin Roxburgh was described by Nadia Boulanger as the new Stravinsky, but I think that a career as a composer was too narrow for him, he is a fine professional oboist, was a teacher at the Royal College of Music where he for many years conducted the contemporary group, and he brings these skills to his composition Eddie was a featured composer at BASBWE - celebrating his 70th birthday this year, the BASBWE conference played all three of his works for wind, Time's Harvest, An Elegy for Ur and Aeolian Carillons. The oboe concerto, An Elegy for Ur, is a wonderfully understated, haunting rhapsody on the destruction of one of the world's oldest cities, Ur of the Chaldees. It is scored for orchestral wind without saxophones and will repay study.
Kenneth Hesketh has emerged during this decade as one of the most exciting new talents in the wind world. Many of you will know Danceries and the bright and breezy Masque, getting to know his Dances for Diaghilev, a wonderful swirling score of impressionistic colourings. His Cloud of Unknowing inhabits that world, perhaps the same kind of continuous expression through sound that we find in Debussy's Jeux or Schoenberg's Erwartung with very little development. Part of my commissioning scheme is to attract composers of international importance liker Horne, Hesketh, Gorb and Roxburgh, to write challenging music with no holds barred, but also to invite them to contribute easier pieces for the less experienced players. This is extremely hard and not everyone accepts the challenge. One who has is Hesketh , an essentially practical composer who like Adam Gorb and Dana Wilson writes for less experienced players without patronizing, setting them the same musical problems as in the works for more mature players. He followed Cloud of Unknowing with a wonderful score of terrific Balkan energy, Vranjanka. As with all his score4s, there are challenging parts for second and third players, and a teasing set of variations mainly in 7/8 on a Serbian love-song.
|Cloud of Unknowing||2005||Schotts|
Chris Marshall is a New Ze alan der who is now resident in Florida . I think his L'homme Armé is one of the strongest of my commissions, and he followed it with the exquisite Resonances. He writes about the challenges of composing:
Sometimes the single-minded pursuit of originality severs too many links with the past. Without existing music as a reference point, communication may be lost. By the same token, a composer who restricts himself to the techniques and aesthetics of the past is irrelevant. The challenge, as I see it, is to produce music that is recognisably of our time, yet also timeless.
His first work, Aue, was commissioned by the WASBE Schools Network, and here again we find an Ivesian montage of melodies and rhythms. He paints a picture of the New Ze alan d rain forest, bursts of rhythms and odd screeches, calmed from time to time by a Wagnerian utterance from the horn section which gets more and more insistent.
At the climax, his reminiscences of a missionary great grandfather resolve onto a 19th century hymn melody - (shades of the myriad of wind and brass band works which are based around Salvation Army hymns or Southern Harmonies!) but Chris is amazing skilful in his set of variations, and finally the piece dissolves into a magically beautiful ending. As with his great grandfather's sermons in the forest, the song of the birds overwhelms the music.
For The Less Experienced Groups
The second may be considered as works aimed at the less experienced group which is looking for more of an intellectual, emotional and technical challenge than is often afforded by wind repertoire I am of course massively biased, but I do think that each and every work written for me recently represents a valuable addition to the repertoire, and many of these works are able to stand alongside earlier major commissions such as Adam Gorb's Dances from Crete or Christopher Marshall's L'Homme Armé. Another work by Roxburgh, the exciting efflorescent Aeolian Carillons, and an extraordinarily moving Passacaglia by Timothy Jackson which has a Brahmsian spaciousness, couched in a contemporary idiom.
We were very proud and honored to have an entire programme dedicated to William played in Adelaide last year.
Elder Conservatory Wind Ensemble, Adelaide
Conductor Bob Hower 14th - October 2006
- L'Homme ArméChristopher Marshall
- Song of Lir;Fergal Carroll
- Bright SpiritJudith Bingham
- Symphony for William Derek Bourgeois
- Dances from CreteAdam Gorb
Music For Young Bands
Writing expressive, lyrical music for young bands without being patronizing, condescending and sentimental, is difficult; few of even our most distinguished colleagues manage it. Adam Gorb manages it usually, and one composer who writes well is Fergal Carroll, who has followed hisSong of Lir with another effective Irish piece, Blackwater. A third, though not in my commissioning series, was premiered recently and is called Silverwinds. All three are published by Maecenas.
The most recent work my commission series is by Marco Pütz who was the featured composer in the BASBWE Conference held in Glasgow
Worksfeatured In Glasgow
- Putz, MarcoTrumpet Concerto
- Putz, MarcoDie Judenbuche
- Putz, MarcoDerivations
- Putz, MarcoFlute Concerto
- Putz, MarcoChoralis Tonalis
The Irish Youth Wind Ensemble gave the public premiere of his Trumpet Concerto with John Wallace, and this is a fine three movement work, typical of Marco's style which is traditional and yet challenging. It starts with a cadenza, followed by an intense introduction which breaks into the traditional allegro.
As I was putting this lecture together, I reflected that there were very few concerti to report but gradually I came to the conclusion that it is in fact something of a vintage two years. Most of these concertos are referred to later in the lecture but I would like to draw attention to a composer who made a strong impression on Adam Gorb and myself in Singapore , Zecharaiah Goh, who recently wrote a fine Marimba Concerto.
|An Elegy for Ur||Edwin Roxburgh||Oboe||3.56|
|Liquid Gold||Dana Wilson||Clarinet||12.40|
|The Avatar||Dana Wilson||Bassoon||16.00|
|Horn Concerto||Simon Wills||Horn||16.41|
|Trumpet Concerto||Marco Pütz||Trumpet||19.00|
|Trombone Concerto||Martin Ellerby||Trombone||15.06|
|Dance Diversions||Ralph Hultgren||Trombone|
|Black Fire||Nigel Clarke||Violin||6.02|
|Marimba Concerto||Zecharaiah Goh||Marimba||13.21|
|Concerto Saxophones||Eddie Mora Bermudez||Saxophone Quartet|
Wasbe Composers Writing For School Bands
Writing for High School students is an immense challenge - how to engage their interest and challenge them intellectually but write enjoyable music with being patronizing. I am glad I am not a composer. In the library you will find scores and a CD of music by a member of WASBE, Thomas Rohrer, Director of Bands at the Utah State University , Logan , where he has premiered no less than five of his compositions. Working at HighSchool level in Texas is another former WASBE member, Jason Nitsch, now teaching in Houston , who has written several works for school band which I think are effective. A school band director looking for traditional band music which occasionally says something different might find it worth going to his website, www.jknitsch.net and exploring his very generous library of downloads with full performances. I found On the Banks of the River Shannon quite charming, a flowing melody giving way to an Irish dance. At the other end of the world, Board member Ralph Hultgren continues to compose and publish a fine range of music, some of it aimed at High School bands, some of it more ambitious and premiered by University and College groups.
- Carroll, FergalSilverwinds
- Ellerby, MartinTales from Andersen
- Hultgren, RalphJessie's Well
- Hultgren, RalphMy Sister's Tears
- Nitsch, JasonElegy for a Ghost Town
- Nitsch, JasonOn the Banks of the Shannon
- Rohrer, ThomasTranscontinental Union
One British composer who has carved a new life and career in Spanish band music is Derek Bourgeois, who many years ago was largely responsible for taking the British Brass band music into the 20th century.
- Four Mallorcan Folk Songs
- Concerto for Bass Trombone
- Felanitx Fiestas
- The well of the Moon
- Band Land
He now lives in Mallorca , his music is published by HaFaBra, is nearly all available on CD and can be readily purchased on line. His most recent work for less experienced bands is Band Land , a Young person's Guide to the Wind Orchestra which is available with the narration in 10 different languages
Wasbe Composers - Martin Ellerby
I have always felt that WASBE should be taking care of its composers, making sure that we have easy access to information about their works, and conversely composers should be contacting WASBE as a central source for information. There are two composers on the Board at present, Martin Ellerby who incidentally is fifty this year, and Adam Gorb who is 50 next. Martin Ellerby has contributed several scores for the military; Ellerby's The Cries of London was written for the Coldstream Guards, premiered in September 2005 and recorded by the Band in a disc of his music on SRC 109. There is a wonderful breezey energy some of this piece which typifies the best of British light music.
Last year Martin rescored his miniature Symphony Natalis for wind and it was premiered by the Royal Marines.This is a dramatic work, typical of his music for the last few years with strong contrasts. Here is the opening, perhaps reminiscent of Paris Sketches in its emotional content and scoring. This has been a productive two years for Martin
- Ellerby, MartinNeapolitan Serenade for flute
- Ellerby, MartinTrombone Concerto
- Ellerby, MartinChivalry - a Tone Poem
- Ellerby, MartinThe Canticle of the Sun
- Ellerby, MartinTerra Australis
- Ellerby, MartinTristan Encounters
- Ellerby, MartinMass of St Thomas Aquinas
- Ellerby, MartinCommemorations
- Ellerby, MartinThe Cries of London
- Ellerby, MartinTales from Andersen
- Ellerby, MartinPrelude from Hampstead Heath
- Ellerby, MartinNatalis, wind band version
Natalis is one of the first publications in the new Maecenas series, Accolade.
The second is an arrangement by Martin of Prelude for Hampstead Heath, which has proved very popular in its brass band version His Trombone Concerto is in three movements, an extremely energetic first, a heartfelt elegy as a second and a third which returns to the extraordinary high spirits of the first.
Many of his works have been written for the Coldstream Guards or the Royal Marines, including the most recent, Commemoration, premiered two weeks ago. Martin is now General editor for Studio Music, and two new works from their catalogue which have been brought to my attention are by Nigel Clarke. In a few weeks, the Royal Military School of Music, Kneller Hall, will premiere Nigel's work written to celebrate their 150th anniversary, Fanfares and Celebrations. The same composer's Black Fire for violin and concert band was recorded recently by the Royal Marines inPortsmouth , a very dramatic work with exciting writing for both soloist and wind orchestra, Nigel Clarke in a very different mood from his usual style.
Despite a hectic year teaching and traveling, Adam Gorb has written three strongly contrasting works as well as a work for the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra.
I was lucky enough to hear his very moving piece for choir, soloists and brass, Scribblings on a Blank Wall. The drama of it made me think that it is time that he wrote an opera. This is a rare piece in the choral repertoire, a work which escapes the somewhat cloying style of the English choral tradition.
- Adrenaline CityStudio
- Sunrise & SafariMaecenas
- Scribblings on a Blank WallMaecenas
This Spring saw the premiere of Sunrise and Safari commissioned by the Singapore Youth Band Festival. The score is on the Maecenas stand. In this he introduced a little aleatoric bird song, but was asked to notate it with bar lines, thus making it far more difficult. Perhaps the answer is the path taken through the New Ze alan d rain forest by Christopher Marshall in the bird song coda to his beautiful Resonance, and just whistle.
The third piece is the very virtuosic Adrenaline City, a sort of son or cousin of Awayday andMetropolis, incredibly energetic and unfortunately for conductors in 10/8; commissioned last year by the US Army.
Dana Wilson And Adam Gorb
At a funeral recently, composer Giles Swayne spoke of composition which challenges the intellect while engaging the heart. It is interesting that so much of the wind music of the last two years achieves this, often in crossover styles. Writing in the vernacular utilizing jazz and pop elements has been very much part of the art of those two WASBE stalwart composers, Adam Gorb and Dana Wilson and I would love to get them both round a table for a discussion since both are essentially practical in their approach to composition, writing music which will test the finest ensemble without over-taxing that important element the audience. Dana has written three works in the past two years which are important additions to our repertoire. . Both Dana and Adam write marvelously for professionals like Larry Coombs and the US Military Academy, Gail Williams or Evelyn Glennie, but they also write some of their best music for amateur and students. Last summer Dana wrote a work to celebrate the career of Frank Battisti, Day DreamThis is a work of sixteen minutes in three movements, dedicated to Frank who asked that it should be playable by ensembles of varying abilities. After a first movement in which Dana portrays a dramatic sunrise, he moves on to a second movement typifying Youth. Dana uses a kind of written out aleatoric technique where the wind players are invited to play ostinati at whatever speed they prefer, giving a blurred effect against which very tight funky rhythms are in sharp contrast.
For me, the harmonic procedures of the finale bring to mind the mature Richard Strauss. What Strauss never quite discovered was the jazz potential of the bassoon. Dana achieves some funky fagot playing in his three movement concerto The Avatar, written for Michigan State
There was no time to do more than mention three other fine concerti, for horn by Simon Wills, and for trombone by Stephen Gryc and Martin Ellerby.
The practicalities of composition are so important, none of the ivory tower stuff for Adam nor Dana, nor indeed for the Austrian composer Hermann Regner of the University of Salzburg , a pupil of Carl Orff, he has contributed enormously to music education in the Orff tradition with works for children in all genres. Interestingly, he had a work in our first International score library back in 1981 and he has been a member of WASBE for some years. He will be 80 next year, but is still actively composing and his Piano Concerto written three years ago is a perfect indication that there is life after Hindemith. If you are looking for a jewel of a piano concerto, try this and there is a fine recording by the Blaserphilharmonie Mozarteum Salzburg
Eduard Oertle & Wasbe Germany
I have always felt that WASBE should be actively encouraging the commissioning of new music, and so I was delighted to be invited to Stuttgart by Eduard Oertle to talk about my own commissions in memory of William, but also to hear three fine concerts, one which featured the world premiere of the Sinfonietta by Axcel Ruoff, played by the Blaserphilharmonie Heilbronn. I knew of this composer already from Leon Bly, a cello concerto and a piano concerto, but it was good to hear a piece live. A menacing introduction features an omnipresent ostinato figure, and it gives way to a section of wonderful lyricism.
Music For Amateurs
As usual many works were written in Europe for amateur performance and these included a fineSinfonietta by Oliver Waespi. Waespi many will remember from works played in Lucerne and inSingapore . The work which I would like to introduce today is his Second Sinfonietta for Wind Band, premiered in June 2006 and strongly recommended by Christoph Müller. He has had a year further study in London, and I think has integrated a more advanced control of his technical language without losing the almost Straussian opulence of some of the earlier works. His new works are listed below, and Temples was certainly one of the great events of the conference.
- Sinfonietta no 2
- Moving Sculptures
- Festive Impressions
What is important for wind music as a genre is to involve other composers and artists who do not specialize in the medium. One such is Carl Rütti better known for his choral music His Ground for Band was premiered in Switzerland , and I then discovered a fine Euphonium Concertocommissioned and recorded by David Childs and the RNCM. More recently he wrote a fine test piece for the European Brass Band Chapionships, Montreux Dances
Far away in atmosphere is the lyrical rhapsody of Daniel Basford, a young composer who graduated recently from the RNCM and who handles wind orchestration with a sure touch. Songs and Refrains was premiered in 2005 and will be published later this Autumn by Maecenas. It is a four movement suite of twenty minutes very much in the English pastoral tradition and perhaps in the faster movements reminding us of Gordon Jacob in his handling of folk song.
WASBE composers have been very active in competitions internationally:
- Luis Serrano Alarcon1st in Corciano
- Ferrer Ferran 1st in Romualdo Romenco
- Jose Suner OriolaAudience prize Tokyo
- Jukka Viitasaari1st Concorso Pernice
- Jukka Viitasaari2nd in Lambersart
and also in UK in the annual British Composer Award
- 2004 Adam GorbTowards Nirvana
- 2005 Ian GardinerToccata, Canzona & Ricecare
- 2006 Andy Scottark Rain
I am always grateful to WASBE conductors and publishers who send me information about premieres that they rate as important. Gary Ciepluch, one of the few current WASBE members who attended the first international Conference back in 1981, wrote in about several works including an extraordinary piece by Monica Houghton, a nightmare tonepoem One Morning in September written after 9/11.
One conductor extremely active in the contemporary field if Fred Harris at MIT and I recently received a wonderful recording of compositions by Evan Ziporyn, a member of Bang on a Can. Part of the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, this disc Frog's Eye on CA 20140 includes this very imaginative work for soprano and wind ensemble, The Ornate Zither and the Nomad Flute.
Like Fred Harris at MIT, . Cindy Johnson-Turner at Cornell has premiered several great pieces this year. One composer she has enthused about is XI WANG who won a Morton Gould ASCAP award this year.
Jazz And The Wind Ensemble
Another composer Cindy introduced is a professor at the University of San Pedro in Costa Rica, Eddie Mora, whose Concerto for Four Saxophones is his second work for wind band. It is is a sprawling three movement work which straddles several styles. The second movement starts with the quartet in a driving minimalist allegro, later underpinned by percussion and becoming really funky, while the finale begins with a languid laid-back tune.
Another interesting crossover piece was sent to me by Gordon Brock of the University of North Florida, a work entitled Scatter Down Light by Gary Smart.
A unique musician, composer-pianist Gary Smart performs, composes and improvises music that reflects an abiding interest in Americana, world musics and jazz, as well as the western classical tradition>
While there is a wealth of music available, we must continue commissioning, and I was delighted to be in touch with Andrew Gekoskie, Director of Bands at Langley High School. Andrew heads up one of the most vibrant High School programmes in the united states; with a series of important commissions. There most recent was Mosaico Mexicano which they premiered in Carnegie Hall this Spring.
Crossover is becoming more and more part of our musical language, as it becomes less and less important to be be modern. One WASBE member who is investigating a whole tranch of exciting new musical sounds is Mike Christianson with the Gotham Wind Symphony who describes the most recent disc from Gotham Wind symphony.
This is our Americana - the version where we celebrate New York as the important cultural font it is, the version where we recognise jazz as the great artistic contribution it is (within every wind ensemble is a jazz band - literally).
There are two commissions on the disc from the band, and my favorite is a great 7 minute Prelude by guitarist James Chirillo, which reminds me of those sweet little pieces by the Gerry Mulligan Quartet - Prelude to A Minor Insenistivity
Another jazzer from the other side of the Continent getting very involved in wind ensemble is Fred Stride who has built up a fine connection with Pacific Symphony Wind Ensemble under its conductor Marc Crompton, resulting in three new works since Singapore, a Saxophone concerto,Trajectories for trumpet and wind, and Seaquam.
There were several works reported by Robert Grechesky of Butler, including a Spring Serenadeby Eric Ewazen and Prayer by Michael Schelle which was played at the last CBDNA Conference. I am grateful to Tony Houghton, Ralph Hultgren, Philip Robinson, Robert Rumbelow, Ken Thompson, Philip Wagner, Christian Wilhjelm and others for sending information about premieres.
BCM and OSTI
I would like to end with a look at a group who I think will make a difference to our programmes. Most composers are poor at self-promotion, but this is a criticism that cannot be leveled at a group of five young American composers who are contributing hugely to our repertoire. The four who make up BCM are Steven Bryant, Jam Bonney, Jonathan Newman and Eric Whitacre. I have added to this group John Mackey and his publishing house, Osti.
BCM began at the Juilliard School where 3 of the composers met while studying with John Corigliano. Their credo:
Our goal is to create music for the wind ensemble medium not bound by traditional thought or idiomatic cliché.
They often write in what we Europeans might think of as a typical American style, noisy and brash, but they usually combine this style with a sense of self-deprecating humour missing in some of their colleagues.
- Radiant Joy
- Suite Dreams
Steve Bryant speaks for them all when he says:
Here's what I really want to achieve when I compose:
I strive to write music that leaps off the stage (or reaches out of the speakers) to grab you by the collar and pull you in. Whether through a relentless eruption of energy, or the intensity of quiet contemplation, I want my music to give you no choice, and no other desire, but to listen.
Jim Bonney is into electronics and really experimental noises; I particularly enjoyed this recent quotation from him:
I've become very fond of eschewing the creative confines of both "highbrow" and lowbrow music and simply creating nobrow music
- Sticks & Stones for drumset and band
I think that all five of them can write quiet music which is full of sentiment without being sentimental. One of the lasting memories of the CBDNA conference in Ann Arbor was of a beautifully paced and b alan ced performance of Jonathan Newman's As the scent of spring rain, a work I want to programme as soon as possible.
New work for solo flute & Ensemble
Eric Whitaker has been very busy this year with an opera which opens this summer - for information go to his website. His gentle transcriptions from his choral pieces are becoming extremely popular and make a welcome change of pace to hard-hitting programmes.
Meanwhile over the past two years, a fifth young composer, John Mackey, burst on to the scene with the prize winning Red Line Tango of 2004, followed by Turbine, surely two of the noisiest tunes in the repertoire. In Strange Humors and music for other ensembles he is showing a more lyrical side to his work.
- Strange Humors
The encouraging thing about this group of composers is that they all have a formidable technique, they have the wildest imagination and wackiest sense of humour, most of them are Juilliard trained and I believe that they will show the way for a new generation of young excellently trained composers who might provide us with a vast pyramid music for wind ensemble, wind orchestra, wind band, some of which might rival the great masterpieces of the past.
Thinking of masterpieces of the past, I would like to end with reference to three composers born one hundred years ago. The contribution from two of them was limited to a single work each for wind ensemble, both very distinguished.
- Music for Wind and BrassElizabeth Maconchy
- SinfoniettaWillem van Otterloo
The third is a composer who never bothered at all with self-promotion, publication or a career. Here is part of A Children's Plea for Peace by the great underestimated, under-rated maverick composer, Alec Wilder. You will find more information about his music on my website.
Interpreting Specific Works