Monday, February 12, 2018

Alabiev and Poulenc

Today in class we heard music by Alexander Alyabyev (also spelled Alabiev or Alabieff, and Aljabjew) and Francis Poulenc.

Alabiev was a Russian composer who lived  from 1787 to 1851. His brass quintet, written in 1847 certainly predates the Ewald Quintets and some of the Bellon brass quintets, written 1848-1850), so it is definitely one of the earliest works for brass quintet. 

Alexander Alabiev (1787-1851)

Wikipedia Bio:
Alexander Aleksandrovich Alyabyev (15 August1787 – 6 March 1851), also rendered as Alabiev or Alabieff, was a Russian composer known as one of the fathers of the Russian art song. He wrote seven operas, twenty musical comedies, a symphony, three string quartets, more than 200 songs, and many other pieces.
Born to a wealthy family in Tobolsk in Siberia, Alyabyev learned music in his early years. He joined the Russian Army in 1812, during the Napoleonic War, and fought as an officer until 1823. He participated in the entry of the Russian forces into Dresden and Paris, and he won two awards. After the mysterious death of a man he spent all night gambling with in February 1825, he was arrested on a charge of murder. While the evidence was not conclusive, Tsar Nicholas I expressly ordered him into exile to his native town of Tobolsk. Freed in 1831, he spent some years in the Caucasus before returning to Moscow, where he died in 1851.
Bio from All Music by :
Born in 1787, Alexander Alyabyev was a versatile and accomplished Russian composer working in the Classical, tradition, his oeuvre including chamber music, symphonic works, and operas. In 1815, he composed his String quartet in E flat major, a work which demonstrated his ability to write for string ensemble. Alyabyev started composing for the stage in the 1820s; his operas include The Water Nymph (Based on Pushkin. as well as works inspired by the plays of Shakespeare -- The Merry Wives of Windsor, The Tempest, and The Enchanted Night (based on Midsummer Night' Dream. In 1834, he published a book of Ukrainian folk melodies. Alyabyev died in 1851.
The quintet is written in one movement, with two sections. The first, Adagio, has a dark and somber mood, which is quickly broken by the Allegro Vivace, which features fanfare-like themes dance-inspired marches reminiscent of Verdi's and Boehme's sextet. The recording we heard was by the Montanus Quintet from their recording "Russian Music for Brass Quintet". Click here to listen to the recording on YouTube, or click here to order it from Amazon digital music. It was also noted in class that the tuba player plays most of the part an octave down from the Randal Block edition available from Pepper. I believe the original called for the higher octave. To order the quintet (parts, no score) from Pepper click here.

Francis Poulenc's Brass Trio. This piece has a particular charm, and is very specific about articulation, including apparently contradictory indications regarding short or long eighth notes. The piece is written for horn, trumpet and trombone and the recording we heard was from a Naxox album of chamber music by Poulenc with Hervé Jolain on horn, Guy Touvron on trumpet, and Jaques Mauger on trombone.

Here are a few quotes from several sources about this piece and its composer:

From ClassicalNet:
"Poulenc behaved like a sophisticated eccentric (he once chatted up a stupefied Cannes bartender about an ingenious harmonic progression he managed to pull off that morning), and the eccentricity not surprisingly showed up in his music. Many have called attention to his split artistic personality, "part monk, part guttersnipe," but really he has many more sides. Like most French composers of his generation, he fell under the influences of Stravinsky and Satie. Yet he doesn't imitate either. You can identify a Poulenc composition immediately with its bright colors, strong, clear rhythms, and gorgeous and novel diatonic harmonies. He is warmer and less intellectual than Stravinsky, more passionate and musically more refined than Satie."
"Francis Poulenc: Shocking the bourgeoisie" from The Timid Soul's Guide to Classical Music by James Reel:
"All right, it's an exaggeration to say that Francis Poulenc was the Sid Vicious of 1920s French art music. But Poulenc and his circle hit the classical music scene with almost the same biting, nihilistic force with which the punk movement slammed into popular music in the 1970s and early '80s.

Both movements were big on
irony and mockery, including self-mockery. The goal was to shock the bourgeoisie, to burn off the sugar coating that music had been collecting in the previous decades. And both movements were absorbed into the mainstream in barely a decade. Francis Poulenc joined a circle of young composers gathered around the eccentric Erik Satie, the famous scribbler of whimsically titled pieces ("Gymnopédies,'' "Vexations'' and the like) with nonsensical comments running through the scores.

Satie's followers opposed the vagueness of Impressionism, the style typified by Claude Debussy's "Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun.'' They advocated simplicity and clarity. They also thought emotions should be more restrained than they had been in late 19th century Romantic music, although the Satie set eagerly made exceptions to the rule of restraint for the purposes of satire.

In 1920, a critic dubbed the half-dozen leading members of this circle - Poulenc, Darius Milhaud, Arthur Honegger, Georges Auric, Germaine, Tailleferre and Louis Durey - "Les Six.''

As a composer, Poulenc was largely self-taught, and one method of self-education is imitation. Many of Poulenc's early works, including a sonata for two clarinets and a brass trio, mimic the ironic Neoclassicism of Igor Stravinsky."

Monday, February 05, 2018

Beethoven and Bellon

Beethoven's Funeral as painted by Franz Stöber (notice the trombones in the front of the procession)

Today in class we listened to two early works for brass ensemble: Beethoven's Drei Equali and Jean-Francois Bellon's Brass Quintet No. 1. Beethoven wrote his Equali in 1812 in Linz, Austria for the celebration of All Saints Day. The Equali were arranged for trombones, male choir and organ in a setting of Miserere for Beethoven's own funeral in 1827.

Jean Francois Bellon
The twelve brass quintets by Bellon are the earliest brass quintets written. They were originally scored for flugelhorn in E-flat, piston valve cornet, horn, trombone and ophicleide. Published in Paris in the 1850's they are charming and seem influenced by the style of Rossini. Here is a link to the sheet music (at Editions BIM) for the twelve brass quintets by Jean Francois Bellon. As the newly published score explains, "this new edition refers and fundamentally adheres to the original printed instrumental parts, issued without full scores in the 1850's. A full score for each quintet has been reconstructed to permit better analysis of the music."

 Bellon's biography from from Editions BIM:

Born in Lyon, France on 30 May 1795, Jean Bellon concluded his musical schooling at the Conservatoire de Paris, probably as the student of Rodolphe Kreutzer (1766-1831) in violin (Premier Prix in 1823) and Anton Reicha (1770-1836) in composition. He subsequently became concertmaster of the Concerts Musard, and conducted various Parisian orchestras. 

As composer, his name is mentioned in several articles published by French musical journals, essentially in connection with his chamber music. Apart from his 12 brass quintets and some pieces for strings, few of his works are to be found today. Immortalized in a portrait by Ed. Hébert (1812-1890) and printed by the major French publisher, Richault, Jean Bellon was without doubt a notable personage of Parisian musical life in his day, as would suggest the dedicatees of his quintets. He died in Paris on 2 March 1869, six days before Hector Berlioz.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

"The Making of Gabrieli"

National Brass Ensemble - Gabrieli
Here is the video we started watching at the end of class today. It's called "The Making of Gabrieli", and it is an excellent 25-minute documentary on the making of the recent recording by the National Brass Ensemble which pays tribute to the historic Gabrieli recording by the Chicago, Philadelphia and Cleveland Orchestra brass sections.

For more information or to purchase their recording on Amazan (since Amazon mispelled Gabrieli, I mispelled Amazon), click here.

Historic Brass Ensemble Listening

English Cornett and Sackbut Ensemble
Today in class we listened to a variety of recordings of brass ensemble music written prior to the twentieth century. They were:
  1. La Bignani by Giovanni Cavaccio recorded by the English Cornett and Sackbut Ensemble
  2. Canzona a 5 by Claudio Merula - recorded by the English Cornett and Sackbut Ensemble
  3. Battle Suite: II. Courant by Samuel Scheidt - recorded by the American Brass Quintet
  4. Marche Fur Die Arche by C.P.E. Bach - recorded by the U.S. Army Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps
  5. Canzona per sonare No. 27 by Giovanni Gabrieli - recorded by the Brass Sections of the Philadelphia, Cleveland and Chicago Symphony Orchestras.
  6. Minuetto from Brass Quintet No. 4 by Jean François Bellon - recorded by the Ewald Brass Quintet
  7. Sonata Pian e forte from Sacrae Symphonies by Giovanni Gabrieli - recorded by the brass section of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra
  8. Flensborger March by Jensen recorded by the Copenhagen Brass.
  9. Jaegermusik Af "Erik Menveds Barndom" by Frederik Frohlich recorded by the Copenhagen Brass
  10. Arie Per Il Balletto A Cavallo by Johann Heinrich Schmelzer - recorded by the Brass Ensemble of the Tonkuenstler Orchestra
  11. Grund - Richtiger Unterricht Sonata for three trombones by Daniel Speer - recorded by the Brass Ensemble of the Tonkuenstler Orchestra
  12. Fanfstimmige Blasende Musick by Johann Pezel - recorded by the Brass Ensemble of the Tonkuenstler Orchestra
  13. "A Due" Trompetenduette by Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber
  14. Air for 2 Horns and Organ in F Major, HWV 410 by George Frideric handel - recorded by Deutsche Naturhorn Solisten & Franz Raml
  15. Les Honnerus de Pied - recorded by Le Rallye-Cor de Montmélian - Cor de Chasse
* I have added numbers 9 and 13 to reflect what we heard since they were missing from this post this morning.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

People and Places of Brass Ensemble Music History

From A History of the Wind Band by Dr. Stephen L. Rhodes
I. Principal Composers and Places of Brass Ensemble History:
Links to Critical Places and Traditions:

The Venetian school and the Extensions of the Polychoral Style - Iakos DemetriouVenetian School - article on Revolvy  Music in the Renaissance (Met Museum)
Franco-Flemish Composers

Band Music from the Civil War Era
- Library of Congress

A Brief History of Brass Quintets (Chamberlain Brass)
Trombone Choirs
Moravian Music Foundation

Irish Music for Brass
- The Contemporary Music Centre of Ireland
The Waits Website

Waits (Medieval Life and Times)
Stadtpfeifers - Groves Online
Wait - Groves Online

II. Course-related Reading Online:
They're With the Band, Speaking That Global Language: Brass
by Josh Kun, New York Times, 4/9/2006
A Short History of the Trombone by David Guion from the Online Trombone Journal
Town Waits and their Tunes by Joseph C. Bridge
A Golden Age of Brass by Annalyn Swan, Newsweek (from American Brass Quintet Website)
History and Heritage of the Trombone Choir by John Marcellus, Eastman School of Music
Something About Trombones (Moravian) from the Bethlehem Digital History Project
Early History of Brass Instruments Vienna Symphonic Library
Venitian Polychoral Style (Wikipedia entry)
Stadtpfeifers - Groves Online
Wait - Groves Online
Cornicen - Roman (military trumpeter)
Saxhorns (Wikipedia)

III. Significant Composers Throughout Brass Ensemble History:

A. Renaissance & Baroque

Andrea Gabrieli (1533-1585) Ricercari
Giovanni Gabrieli (c. 1557-1612) Sacrae Symphoniae; Canzoni
Giovanni Pierluigi de Palestrina (1525-1594)
Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643) L'Orfeo (five trombones)
Gioseffo Guami (c. 1540-1611) Canzoni
Anthony Holborne (1584-1602) Consort Music, Pavans...
Matthew Locke (1622-1677) Consort Music
William Brade (1560-1630) Dance Suites
Tielman Susato (c. 1500- c.1562)
Samuel Scheidt (1587-1653)
Johann Schein (1586-1630)
Johann Pezel (1639-1694)
George Friederich Handel (1685-1759) Water Music, Royal Fireworks

B. Classic and Romantic

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) Drei Equali
Alexander Alyabiev [Aliabev] (1787-1851) Quintet in E-flat for Brass
Ludwig Maurer (1789-1878)
Hector Berlioz (1803-1869) Messe Solenelle (1824), Grande Messe des Morts (Requiem) [orch. + 4 antiphonal brass choirs]
Viktor Ewald (1860-1935) Brass Quintets Nos. 1-4
Wallingford Riegger (1885-1961) Music for Brass Choir, op. 45

C. Twentieth Century

Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951) Fanfare on motifs of Die Gurre-Lieder for Brass and Percussion (1945)
Paul Hindemith (1895-1963 ) Brass Septet, Morgenmusik from "Ploner Musiktag"
Virgil Thompson (1896-1989) Family Portrait
Henri Tomasi (1901-1971) Fanfares Liturgiques
William Walton (1902-1983) Belshazzar's Feast (orchesrtra with two brass bands); Queen's Fanfare; Anniversary Fanfare; Numerous works for brass band and arrangements for brass.
Ingolf Dahl (1912-1970) Music for Brass Instruments (1944)
Alvin Etler (1913-1973)
Witold Lutoslawski (1913-1994) Mini Overture
Vincent Persichetti (1915-1987)
Vaclav Nehlybel (1919-1996)
Alfred Reed (b. 1921-2005)
Malcolm Arnold (1921-2006)
Iannis Xanakis (1922-2001) Eonta, Akrata, A la Mémoire de Witold Lutoslawski
Fisher Tull (1934-1994)

D. Significant Living Composers

Gunther Schuller (b. 1925)
Verne Reynolds (b. 1926)
Walter Hartley (b. 1927)
La Monte Young (b. 1935)
Jan Bach (b. 1937)
Joan Tower (b. 1938)
John Cheetham (b. 1939)
Tania Leon (b. 1943)
Edward Gregson (b. 1945)
Anthony Plog (b. 1947)
David Sampson (b. 1951)
David Felder (b. 1953)
Eric Ewazen (b. 1954)
James Grant (b. 1954)
Richard Danielpour (b. 1956)
Ira Taxin (b. 1957)
Marti Epstein (b. 1959)
David Dzubay (b. 1964)

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Acute Coryza by Anthony Coleman

Tilt Brass

At the beginning of class we listened to a recording of Acute Coryza by Anthony Coleman performed by Tilt Brass Sextet. It is one of many brass ensemble recordings I recently discovered that are available on Apple Music. I will occasionally be selecting works like this for random "Sight Hearing" sessions throughout the semester. 

From Coleman's biography on the New England Conservatory (NEC) website:
From the Sarajevo Jazz Festival to the Jewish Culture Festival in Krakow, Poland, Anthony Coleman’s musical odyssey has taken him through many cultures and led him to wear many hats as composer, improvising keyboardist, and teacher. Coleman joined the NEC faculty in 2006, returning to a school where he himself studied in the 1970s, during the birth of NEC’s Contemporary Improvisation program (then called Third Stream). In addition to his work as a studio teacher and ensemble coach, Coleman works with NEC’s Contemporary Improvisation students to organize a departmental concert each spring.

Starting Your Blog

If you haven't already launched your blog, here are some basic instructions on how to go about it. To start your blog, go to one of these free blogging services. They are pretty simple and intuitive.




1. Pick a theme that you might be interested in exploring, such as trumpet ensembles of South America; Brass Bands of Great Britain; or Collegiate Horn Choirs, etc. You will probably be prompted to name your blog, so base the name on your theme.

2. Not every post you create has to be related to your theme. They could be about the class, or another brass ensemble related idea, but in general think of your blog as public research and an online record of your exploration.

3. Be sure to send me the address (URL) of your blog so that I can link it to ABEL Central. In turn, you should add ABEL Central and your fellow students' blogs to your links list.

4. A post can be one or two paragraphs of opinion, review, or information about a course related issue, artist, or work. I encourage you to embed images, but remember to indicate photo credit to images that are not yours. It is also fairly easy to embed video from YouTube or Vimeo. Audio isn't always so easy, but depending on your provider, or a link to an audio hosting site, it is possible.

5. Hyperlinks are essential. If you are discussing the American Brass Quintet, it is more interactive to provide a link to the American Brass Quintet. It should be fairly easy to learn how to do this in your blog.

6. Be sure to post an average of twice per week. The minimum amount of blog posts is 24, but feel free to do more if you wish.

7. Also read each other's blogs, as well as ABEL central and subscribe to them so that you are notified when a new post or comment is added.

8. You may opt to make your blog private through your settings, which is fine, but make sure that everyone and the class and I have access to view it.

9. I encourage you to peruse student blogs from the past (list to the right here) as well as older posts on ABEL central.

10. If you already have a blog or website, it is okay to use it for this purpose as long as it is clear and easy to find ABEL related posts.

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Welcome Spring 2018 Students!

"Assorted Brass Instrument" by Samulis
Welcome to Advanced Brass Ensemble Literature, Spring 2018! 

ABEL Central is the official course  blog, where you will find information about the class, as well as links to your own course-related blogs. On the right-hand side bar, you'll see the course number, syllabus, ways to follow, search and subscribe this blog, and links to the blogs of former students. Additionally, there are links to professional brass ensembles and other resources.

I will be posting here, generally once a week, on things we cover in class, answers to questions that came up in class, and anything else that might be of interest to this course. This blog is ten over ten years old, so take advantage of perusing older posts, as well as blogs by former students for ideas for your own blog.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Brass Ensemble Music from Other Cultures

Jaipur Kawa Brass Band
On Wednesday I gave a listening presentation titled "Brass Ensemble Music from Other Cultures". Below is a table with the playlist, providing information on the selection, ensemble, recording and origin, as well as links to each ensemble. As I mentioned, this was not a comprehensive survey, as it did not include anything from the continents of Africa, Australia and Asia. I invite you to research other brass ensemble traditions outside of European/American genres and share with the class or in the comments below:

The details of each work are listed in this order:

Rusasca de la Buzdug
Fanfare Ciocarlia
Radio Pascani  
Romania (Balkan Brass Band)

Mundo Cocek
Boban I Marko Markovic Orkestar
Golden Horns - Best of Boban i Marko Markovic Orkestar
Serbia (Balkan Brass Band)

Soniya Dil Da Mamla
Jaipur Kawa Brass Band
Dance of the Cobra  

Tu Cheez Badi Hai Mast Mas
Bollywood Brass Band
Movie Masala
England (Indian)

El Carretero   
Pepe Gutiérrez & Mariachi De Pepe Villa
Vintage Mexico No. 158
Mexico (Mariachi)

Entierrenme Con La Banda   
Banda el Recodo
Del Pueblo
Mexico (Banda)

A Taste of Honey   
Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass
Whipped Cream & Other Delight
USA (Pop)

Beulah College Band
Ifi Palasa - Tongan Brass
Tonga (Traditional)

In your Garden Twenty Fecund Fruit Trees
Frank London's Klezmer Brass Allstars
Frank London's Klezmer Brass Allstars
USA (Klezmer)

Always Remember
The Tigers
Dancing with Daddy G
USA (Trombone Shout Band/Gospel)

Doghouse Polka
Kris and the Riverbend Dutchmen
Partners, Brothers, And Friends
USA (Polka)

I Am an Ape  
David Byrne & St. Vincent  
Love This Giant
USA (Alternative)