Got hold of an encyclopaedia to find out what Bucharest was like. There I read about the art-loving Queen Carmen Sylva and the descendants of the rich, distinguished Boyars who invaded Bucharest so and so many years ago. “This would look good in the newspapers,” I thought. And then there was the Queen! She would immediately summon me to the palace with my quartet. I had to find release, so I wrote a march and called it The March of the Boyars, and just when I had finished it, the same afternoon, Edvard Grieg came in. “Now, how are you doing? Already in full swing I see.” He saw the manuscript on the piano, looked at it carefully and said: “That is good!”
The march was soon performed by the theater orchestra, but it didn’t receive national recognition until Grieg, whose niece was Halvorsen’s wife, made a piano arrangement in 1898. From the 10th through the 17th century, the Boyars were the highest ranking members of the Bulgarian, Romanian, Russian, and Ukrainian aristocracy, second only to the ruling princes. Halvorsen’s March depicts the ceremonial entrance of these aristocrats in a theatrical setting. A solo clarinet softly introduces the regal theme. Instruments are added with time to represent the approach of the entourage. Woodwind ornamentation complements the brass fanfares. A roll from the snare drum introduces and ends a reprise of the opening procession. Frederick Fennel referenced the original orchestral score in this transcription for band.
George Frideric Handel (1685 - 1759) was born in Halle, Germany, in the same year Bach was born. As a young man, he became proficient as a church organist. He studied law at Halle University, but his real interest was in music. Handel composed his first opera, Almira, in 1704. He spent three years in Rome before returning to Hanover as court musician. Handel understood his marketplace. He moved from Germany to London, England, in 1710 to capitalize on the British interest in Italian opera, composing 40 operas over a 30 year period. Public interest started to tire of highly stylized and pompous opera and people sought something new.
Suite from “Messiah”
In 1737, Handel recognized that oratorios, without sets and costumes, could be performed during Lent, when operas were forbidden, giving him a new source of income while offering new entertainment. He had some success with his early oratorios Alexander’s Feast, Israel in Egypt, and Saul. In February of 1741, Handel was invited to travel to Dublin to give a series of benefit concerts. His friend, Charles Jennens, had given Handel a text compiled from the Old and New Testaments, telling the story of Christ through his birth, life, passion, and resurrection. Working steadily for 23 days, Handel blended the collection into the Messiah, which was first performed in November of 1741. The benefit concerts were a great success, but it wasn’t until 1749 that the work gained wide acceptance through annual concerts. The use of an English text, large choruses, and stirring and majestic music appealed to the English middle class. This arrangement by James Curnow provides a sampling of the music from this monumental work.
Howard Hanson (1896 - 1981) exerted widespread influence as a composer, conductor, and educator. At the age of twenty, he accepted an appointment as Dean of the Conservatory of Fine Arts, College of the Pacific in San Jose, CA. In 1921, he was the first composer to enter the American Academy in Rome, having won its Prix de Rome. Upon his return to the United States in 1924, he became the Director of the Eastman School of Music, a position he held until 1964. In 1944, he received the Pulitzer Prize for his Symphony No. 4. Hanson's style is romantic, tonal (although enhanced by euphonious dissonances), with asymmetric rhythms at times, and a preference for the low instrument registers. His sense of humor was demonstrated when, shortly after a famous incident when duck feathers descended in the Eastman Theater during the cannonading in Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture, Hanson opened a faculty meeting by declaring: “Gentlemen, there is no truth to the rumor that next week the orchestra will play The Water Music!”
Chorale and Alleluia
Chorale and Alleluia is Hanson’s most popular wind ensemble composition and his first for that instrumentation. It was completed in January 1954 and premiered at the American Bandmasters Association convention that same year at West Point. The piece opens with a fine, flowing chorale. Soon the joyous Alleluia theme appears and is much in evidence throughout. A bold statement of a new melody makes its appearance in the lower brasses in combination with the earlier themes. The effect is one of cathedral bells, religious exaltation, and dignity.
Nebraska celebrated its 100th anniversary of statehood in 1968 and Howard Hanson, a native son, was asked to compose a work to commemorate that occasion. Septuagenarian Hanson had been retired from his post as the first Director of the Eastman School of Music. Dies Natalis (The Nativity) was originally written for orchestra; four years later, Hanson arranged the work for symphonic band to mark the 50th anniversary of the Eastman School of Music. Based on an ancient and beautiful Lutheran Christmas chorale, the composition evolves through seven variations that are framed by an introduction and finale. The chorale sections are marked with Hanson’s “romantic” harmonies prevalent in his symphonies. The composer commented on the chorale tune:
I used to sing it as a boy in the Swedish Lutheran Church of Wahoo, Nebraska. This chorale has, without doubt, been the greatest single musical influence in my life as a composer. Traces of the chorale appear in my early orchestral work, Lux Aeterna, and in sections of my opera, Merry Mount. The chorale form has also influenced my Chorale and Alleluia for band and my fourth and fifth symphonies for orchestra.
Merry Mount SuiteHoward Hanson’s only opera, Merry Mount, was commissioned by the Metropolitan Opera in New York and was given its premier in 1934. Set in New England in 1625, the opera is based on Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Maypole of Merry Mount,” a fictional story based on a historical episode in the Plymouth Colony. The plot relates the clash between Puritans, with their rigid religiosity, and a group of Cavaliers, who come to town and scandalize everyone with their Maypole dancing and merry-making. A tragic love story involves the Puritan pastor, his betrothed, and the visiting Cavalier woman. The Suite is in three movements beginning with the Overture to the opera, depicting the austerity of the Puritans. The Children’s Dance is happy and playful from the Cavaliers’ Maypole revels. A romantic Love Duet extols the pastor’s desire for the “other” woman.
Symphony No. 2, “Romantic”, Third Movement
This second symphony by Howard Hanson, subtitled the “Romantic,” was composed for the 50th anniversary of the Boston Symphony and was premiered in 1930 under the direction of Serge Koussevitzky. Hanson has commented that “My aim in this symphony has been to create a work young in spirit, romantic in temperament, simple and direct in expression.” His friends have characterized the work as a self-portrait for an unusually direct man, as articulate in his speech as in his composing. This transcription of the last movement of the symphony was done, with the composer's approval, by the noted composer and teacher, W. Francis McBeth, who was a student of Hanson. The transcription premiered at the Texas Tech Band Camp in the summer of 1976.
Shelley Hanson, a Twin Cities composer, arranger, teacher, and professional musician, has an affinity for writing and performing folk music. Her band, Klezmer and All That Jazz, recorded traditional and original music for the audio book version of the Yiddish play “The Dybbuk.” Ms. Hanson received a Ph.D. in Performance, Music Theory, and Music Literature from Michigan State University. She is a member of the Minneapolis Pops Orchestra and serves on the faculty of Macalester College.
La Tumba de Alejandro Garcia Caturla
This work is a tribute to the young Cuban composer Alejandro Garcia Caturla (1906-1940) who studied with Nadia Boulanger but was later assassinated while presiding as a judge. It opens with a haunting English horn cadenza followed by harmonic shifts, intense soli writing and driving Cuban rhythms that sweep through the ensemble. La tumba literally translated means “tomb”, but in the tradition of the French tombeau or memorial. It also refers to a large conga drum, prominent in this orchestration.
Johannes Hanssen (1874 -1967) was one of Norway's most active and influential bandmasters, composers, and teachers during the first forty years of the 20th century. He was born in Ullensaker, a small town near Oslo, and played in a military band in Oslo as a young boy. He was bandmaster of the Oslo Military Band from 1926 to 1934 and again from 1945 to 1946. Hanssen received many honors in his lifetime, including the King's Order of Merit in Gold and King Haakon VIII's Jubilee Medal.
Valdres - Norwegian March
The title has both geographic and musical connotations. Valdres is a beautiful region in Norway between Oslo and Bergen. The first three measures contain the old signature fanfare for the Valdres Battalion, which is based on an ancient melody formerly played on the lur (a straight wooden “trumpet”). Other melodies derive from a Hardanger fiddle tune and a pentatonic folk tune, above a typical Norwegian drone bass. It was first performed in 1904 by the band of the second regiment of Norway, with the composer playing the baritone horn himself.
Sir Herbert Hamilton Harty (1879 - 1941) was born at Hillsborough in Northern Ireland. He was taught by his father to play the piano and viola and he became a church organist at the age of twelve. He moved to London in 1900 to pursue a musical career. His conducting skills developed quickly and, in 1920, he was named as the permanent conductor of the Hallé Orchestra. Harty was knighted five years later. He composed symphonies, overtures, concertos, and instrumental works. His works often drew from Irish poems and folk melodies. He is best known for his tone poem With the wild geese written in 1910.
The Fair-Day was composed by Hamilton Harty in 1904, as the second of
four movements of his An Irish
Symphony. The merriment of the fair is introduced by a solo
flute playing the reel The Blackberry
Blossom. Continuing with an imitation of flute bands Harty had
heard in Ireland, the theme transitions to The
Girl I Left Behind Me. The composer wrote:
This work is an attempt to produce a symphony in the Irish idiom, and it has, for poetical basis, scenes and moods intimately connected with the North of Ireland countryside to which the composer belongs. The themes have therefore been given a characteristically Irish turn; often based on traditional melodies.
The Fair-Day – horses and cattle – noise and dust – swearing, bargaining men. A recruiting sergeant with his gay ribbons, and the primitive village band. In the market place, old women selling ginger bread and ‘yellow boy’ and sweet fizzy drinks. A battered merry-go-round.
Paul Harvey was born in 1935 in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, England. He started to play the clarinet at the age of eleven. Three years later, he became a member of the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain. In 1952, Harvey won a scholarship to the Royal College of Music, where he studied clarinet with Frederick Thurston and Ralph Clarke and composition with John Addison. After doing his National Service with the Band of the Irish Guards (1953-56), he performed as Bass clarinet with the Scottish National Orchestra, subsequently joining the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. Becoming a freelance musician in the 1960’s, he performed mostly on the saxophone with the BBC Symphony Orchestra. His Contrabass clarinet performances contributed to the sound tracks of many horror films. From 1969 until his retirement in 1995, Harvey was professor of clarinet and saxophone at the Royal Military School of Music. For the last decade, he has devoted his time to composition, private teaching, and conducting. Hundreds of his compositions are in print, most of which feature clarinet and saxophone. The International Clarinet Association presented him with a Lifetime achievement Award in 2002.
Four members of the Foothill Symphonic Winds comprise the Blackwood Clarinet Ensemble. These talented musicians take pleasure in the sound of a smaller group and the challenges of playing well together without the aid of a conductor. Clarinet quartets became popular during the second half of the 19th Century and have flourished into the 21st. Paul Harvey’s Quartet is one of the most popular compositions written for three B-flat soprano clarinets and a Bass clarinet. Two of the four movements will be performed tonight. The Prelude provides a lively and frolicking opening. The Fugue concludes the composition with theme passed between the musicians in a modern interpretation that’s both jazzy and humorous.
Samuel R. Hazo (b. 1966) received his Bachelors and Masters degrees from Duquesne University, where he served on the Board of Governors and was honored as an Outstanding Graduate in Music Education. Mr. Hazo has been a music teacher at every educational grade level from kindergarten through college, including tenure as a high school and university band director. A prominent composer of wind band and chamber ensemble works, he has also written for television, radio, and stage. In 2003 he became the first composer to win both composition contests of the National Band Association with his Perthshire Majesty (2003) and Novo Lenio (2001). Mr. Hazo now resides in Pittsburgh, PA, where he serves on the faculty of the Upper St. Clair School District. He is also active as a clinician and guest conductor.
Hazo wrote Ride for his good friend Jack Stamp, director of bands at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. The score describes the composer's experience following Stamp to his home, which turned out to be a wild ride down country roads. “Since I didn't know how to get to Jack's house (a/k/a Gavorkna House) from the university, he told me to follow him,” Hazo wrote. “Ride was written and titled for that exact moment in my life when Jack Stamp's generosity and lead foot were as equal in their inspiration as the beautiful Indiana, PA, countryside blurring past my car window.”
Ira Hearshen received his Bachelor of Music degree in applied theory and composition from Wayne State University. In 1972, he moved to Los Angeles to study orchestration at the Grove School of Music and counterpoint under Allyn Ferguson. He also studied under film composer, Albert Harris. His arrangements have been featured in the Detroit Symphony's Pine Knob Summer Series, The Summer Pops Series for John Denver, the Jacksonville (FL) Symphony, and the Air Combat Heritage Band. His orchestrations have appeared in the feature films Guarding Tess, The Three Musketeers, and All Dogs Go To Heaven 2, the television series Beauty and the Beast, and the Broadway show “Into the Light”.
Symphony on Themes of John Philip Sousa
Mvt. III after “Fairest of the Fair”
As a child, Ira Hearshen was stirred and fascinated by the music of John Philip Sousa. Later, as a composer, he felt the challenge to develop a symphonic work that would pay homage to the March King. Originally conceived as a light concert suite of four to six movements, it was recast into a full-scale symphony, in response to the audience reaction to a premier of another movement, The Thunderer. Searching for a unifying melodic theme that would bridge the movement, Hearshen explains: “I found the solution in Sousa's scores. There was a four note melodic fragment common to virtually every tune I wanted to use, the same four notes that begin the Dies Irae portion of the Catholic Mass. The intervals are a minor 2nd down, a minor 2nd up, followed by a minor 3rd down. In the key of C major or A minor these notes would be C-B-C-A. This melodic motive occurs in the trios of both Hands Across The Sea and Washington Post as well as the introduction to Fairest of the Fair. In fact, these are the first four notes one hears in The Stars and Stripes Forever.
Ralph Hermann was born in 1914 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. His early musical education was received from the school system there; at his high school graduation, he was awarded the Milwaukee Civic Music Medal for outstanding musical contributions. He later studied under Vittorio Giannini of the Juilliard School of Music. A long career as an instrumentalist started in junior high school, when he played for a “Kiddie Revue”, and culminated with his performances with various name bands including those of Freddy Martin and Jimmy Dorsey. He worked as an arranger for the major broadcasting networks and he is presently the musical director for the American Broadcasting Company. Since 1954, he has been composing for concert band. He has written for saxophone and clarinet artist Al Callodoro and saxophone soloist Eugene Rousseau. His works range from Concerto for Horn and North Sea Overture to arrangements of music from Tosca and a medley from Porgy and Bess.
The clarinet section is featured in this 1960 composition that contrasts two moods. The Prelude possesses the rich and full sound characteristic of grand theater productions; the Caprice is gay and spirited, showing the full range of the clarinet’s musical flexibility. The other sections of the ensemble provide the support and background color to make this piece complete and interesting.
Kenneth Hesketh was born in Liverpool, England, in 1968 and studied at the Royal College of Music in London with Edwin Roxburgh, Simon Bainbridge and Joseph Horovitz. Before his admission, he already had commissions and performances by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain and the National Children's Orchestra. Hesketh has written a variety of music, including a ballet score for the English National Ballet School in 1990, a fanfare for the inauguration of the Prince of Wales as President of the Royal College of Music in 1994, and various Christmas carols. His most recent works include The Messenger Carol, The Circling Canopy of Night, and At God speeded Summer's end.
Premiered in November 2000 at the Bridgewater Hall, Manchester, UK, Masque is a transcription of the composer's Scherzo for Orchestra,written in 1987 while he was an undergraduate. A simple heraldic tune is passed around, and the revelry rarely ceases. The composer has offered the following note about his work:
The masque has had a varied history, certainly a varied spelling (`masque', `maske', even `maskeling'). However, the historian E K Chambers in his book “The Medieval Stage” defines the word in the following way: `A form of revel in which mummers or masked folk come, with torches blazing, into the festive hall uninvited and call upon the company to dance and dice.'
The above description can also serve as a description to the piece. The main theme is certainly bravura and is often present, disguised, in the background. The form of the piece is a simple scherzo-trio-scherzo. Colourful scoring (upper wind solos, trumpet and horn solos alternating with full bodied tuttis) with a dash of wildness may tease both player and listener to let their hair down a little!
Paul Hindemith was a rare musician known not only for his talent as a composer, but for his work as a professional violinist and violist, a pianist, conductor, and teacher. He could play virtually every instrument in the orchestra; if he was unfamiliar with one, he would take a week or so to master it. Hindemith was born in Hanau, Germany, in 1895. His father was a house painter, who played the zither and encouraged his children to explore their musical talents. Paul started taking violin lessons at the age of nine and was later enrolled at the Hoch Conservatory in Frankfort from 1908 to 1917. When his father was killed in the war in 1915, Paul had to support his mother by playing in cafes. He was concertmaster for the Frankfurt Opera (1915 - 1923) except for a two-year period when he was called into service and became part of the regimental band. His compositions represented the neobaroque, working in the classic forms of the fugue, sonata, and suite in a manner identified with Bach. His interest in composing Gebrauchsmusik - music for practical use rather than music for art's sake - put him in disfavor with he rising Nazi party; they felt he was not upholding his duty as a true German composer. In 1938, he left for Switzerland and later the United States, becoming head of the School of Music at Yale University in 1942 and a US citizen in 1946. Returning to Switzerland in 1953, he resided there until his death in 1963.
March from Symphonic Metamorphosis of Themes by Carl Maria von Weber
Hindemith collaborated with choreographer Leonid Massine on a ballet utilizing music of Carl Maria von Weber. The project was eventually scrapped due to artistic differences between the parties. Hindemith felt he was just being used as an arranger, while Massine found the music too complex to dance to. The musical ideas were salvaged, three years later, when Hindemith completed his Symphonic Metamorphosis (1943). The work was originally written for orchestra, but the composer believed that it should be available for band, also. Hindemith asked his Yale colleague, Keith Wilson, to do the transcription, which was completed in 1961. The March is the fourth and final movement of the composition and is based on a piano duet by Weber. The two-bar opening statement by the brass is heard in several forms throughout the movement. The woodwinds underscore the sonorous melodies of the brass with a driving rhythm and articulation that carries the movement to its finale.
David Rex Holsinger was born in Hardin, Missouri, the day after Christmas 1945. He took up the trumpet in the third grade and was a member of the school bands through high school. Pursuing a low brass/music education major, Holsinger earned degrees from Central Methodist College (BME, 1967) and Central Missouri State University (MA, 1974). For more than 16 years, he served as chief musician and composer-in-residence at the Shady Grove Church in Grand Prairie, Texas. His compositions earned him the prestigious American Bandmasters Association Ostwald Award in 1982 and 1986. In 1995, the Gustavus Adolphus College conferred the Doctor of Humane Letters Degree upon Holsinger for his lifetime achievement in composition. Holsinger likes to work with a title in mind. His repertoire spans the secular and sacred, with the latter prominently represented by his Hymnsong series. His music is often characterized by unrelenting rhythms, mixed meters, and polylineal textures. Throughout his more than 50 band works, there is a sense of sincerity and gratitude that carries high emotional impact. A respected guest lecturer and conductor, Holsinger lives in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee with his wife, Winona.
David Holsinger’s first child, his daughter Haven, was the inspiration for this 1983 composition. Its driving rhythms represent the energy of an eight year old, who was constantly dancing and twirling around the house, dreaming of being a ballerina. The composition undergoes several variations in style, but it is always filled with energy. Some passages evoke the image of a single dancer, with solo pirouettes and leaps; these light efforts grow to draw in the full dance company with an unrelenting, underlying rhythm. Havendance is the first of three dancesongs honoring the composer’s children; Nilesdance and Graysondance reflect the diverse personalities of his two sons.
Hero MusicIn November 2000, James F. “Pete” Evans, a long time band director, school superintendent, and past President of the West Tennessee School Band and Orchestra Association (WTSBOA), passed away after a long bout with cancer. The WTSBOA commissioned Holsinger to compose this work and provided him with letters, stories, and articles chronicling Evans’ life. His former students related how he had influenced their lives - many had become music educators as a result. Holsinger wrote: “They spoke of a precious man. A beautiful man. A good and special man. They spoke of someone they all loved and who had left each of them with a legacy of grace and faith and hope. They spoke of a world made so positively different because he had been a part of their lives.” Holsinger has attempted to put those thoughts and impressions into Hero Music to honor a man who always “put kids first!”
One Day, In A Small Town
The composer has provided the following program note:
In 1977, a young Skip Vandelicht graduated from Central Methodist College in Fayette, Missouri, and without moving more than three-quarters of a mile, secured his first job at the local high school. He probably thought that this was a good “first job”, close to his mentors, and in a small town where he “couldn’t do much damage” until he got his feet wet and where he could be eventually ready to move on to that bigger school somewhere “out there” …
Several years ago, the Fayette High School Band Boosters asked me to compose a work to honor a slightly older Skip Vandelicht in celebration of his 27th year in his “first job”. In his tenure in that small American town, this gentleman has managed to become the President of the Missouri Bandmasters Association, performed numerous times at the Missouri Music Educators Convention, direct a High School band program that has earned top ratings at State Music Festival for 25 years, be honored with his college’s Young Alumni Award, and in the process, snag Bandworld Magazine’s Legend of Honor Award in 2003!
But the greatest honor that can be extended to Skip Vandelicht is this: That he has the admiration and love of parents and students who have been inspired for twenty-seven years, by this man, to achieve their best at all times. And though this work was written as a nostalgic look around Fayette, Missouri, from ghostly echoes emanating from the city bandstand on the Courthouse Square … to hijinks in the park … to cruising down the local highway … it is more about all those Band Directors, in ALL the small towns of America, who, like Skip Vandelicht, have dedicated themselves to teaching children, the children’s children, and perhaps a few grandchildren, always continuing to be “immeasurable heroes” in the eyes of their communities.
Gustav Holst (1874 - 1934), one of England's most prominent composers, was also a professional trombonist and a teacher of composition and organ. His music includes operas, ballets, symphonies, chamber music, and songs. During the first World War, he was placed in command of all English Army Bands, organizing music among the troops under the Y.M.C.A. Army and Education program. He continued his teaching as musical director at the St. Paul's Girls' School in the Hammersmith borough of London. His First Suite in E-Flat, Second Suite in F, and Hammersmith are hallmarks in the repertoire for wind ensemble; his orchestral suite, The Planets, is highly popular.
First Suite in E-flat for Military Band
Written in 1909, the Suite in E-Flat is generally regarded as a cornerstone work for concert band and is one of the few band originals that has been transcribed for symphony orchestra. The opening theme of the Chaconne is repeated by various instruments as others weave varied filigrees about the ground theme. In the middle of the first movement, the principal theme is inverted for several repetitions. The Intermezzo is based on a variation of the Chaconne theme, presented first in an agitated style, then in a cantabile mood, the two styles alternating throughout the movement with remarkable and deceivingly simple-sounding counterpoint that is as charming as it is masterful. The March is introduced by a British band quick-march pulse from the brass and followed by Holst's Land of Hope and Glory version of the Chaconne theme in the great sostenuto tradition of the singing chorus. Eventually, the two themes are combined in a thrilling counterpoint leading to the coda with a dynamic marking of ffff !
In 1927, Gustav Holst was commissioned to write a competition piece for the BBC and the National Brass Band Festival Committee. The result was The Moorside Suite. It is said that Holst was very happy upon hearing the fifteen brass bands play his piece in the competition at the Crystal Palace, London, in 1928. The suite has three movements: Scherzo, Nocturne, and March. Gordon Jacob arranged the suite for orchestra in 1952 and for wind band in 1960. The March begins with a rising, four-note motive that leads into a vigorous theme, noteworthy because of its six-bar phrases. A second theme, employing more normal eight-bar phrases, is introduced by the alto saxophone. The trio is reminiscent of the ceremonial marches of Elgar and Walton in its pomp and dignity. After a brief modulatory section based on the opening motive, the first two themes are restated and the march concludes with a coda containing material from the trio.
This suite, composed in 1911, uses English folk songs and folk dance tunes throughout, being written at a time when Holst needed to rest from the strain of original composition. The opening march movement uses three tunes, the first of which is a lively morris dance. The folk song Swansea Town is next, played broadly and lyrically by the euphonium, followed by the entire band playing the tune in block harmonies - a typically English sound. Claudy Banks is the third tune, brimming with vitality and the vibrant sound of unison clarinets. The first two tunes are repeated to conclude the first movement. The second movement is a setting for the English folk song I'll Love My Love. It is a sad story of a young maiden driven into Bedlam by grief over her lover being sent to sea by his parents to prevent their marriage. The Hampshire folk song, The Song of the Blacksmith, is the basis of the third movement, which evokes visions of the sparks from red hot metal being beaten with a lively hammer's rhythm on the blacksmith's anvil. The English country dance and folk song, The Dargason, dating from the sixteenth century, completes the suite in a manner that continues to cycle and seems to have no end. The Elizabethan love tune Green Sleaves is intertwined briefly and withdrawn before the final witty scoring of a piccolo and tuba duet four octaves apart.
Mars, the Bringer of War from “The Planets"
The Planets, composed for orchestra between 1914 and 1916, is a suite of seven tone poems, each describing a planet from Mars to Neptune; Earth was excluded and Pluto hadn't been discovered yet. At a time when Holst was finding large-scale composition difficult, due to demands on his time, his friend Clifford Bax talked to him about astrology. The clearly defined character of each planet suggested the contrasting moods of a work that was unlike anything he had yet written. Mars, the Bringer of War is the first movement of the suite. It was written months before the outbreak of the First World War. Holst’s use of relentless 5/4 and 5/2 rhythms builds tension from the quite beginnings to the full triple forte of the battles. The war machine is driven by this rhythm, destroying everything in its path.
Songs of the WestGustav Holst did not have much success in getting his early compositions published. In 1905, he began a career as a gifted teacher when he was appointed Director of Music at St. Paul’s Girls School in Hammersmith. It was also a time when he developed the friendship of Ralph Vaughan Williams and the two developed an interest in English folk music. This became a turning point in Holst’s style as he left behind the heaviness of the Wagnerian style for the simplicity of folk melodies. Vaughan Williams wrote “we were dazzled, we wanted to preach a new gospel, we wanted to rhapsodise on these tunes just as Liszt and Grieg had done on theirs … we simply were fascinated by the tunes.” Enthusiastic archivist Cecil Sharp, of the Folk Song Society, encouraged Holst to write “Two Selections of Folk Songs” based on material Sharp had collected in the West of England. Songs of the West was the first of the pair noted as Opus 22 was written in 1906; A Somerset Rhapsody was completed the following year. The melodies in Songs of the West differ in styles, keys, and tempos. The nautical nature of the coastal region is evident in many of the melodies. Originally written for orchestra, noted composer James Curnow was commissioned in 1986 to arrange the work for concert band.
Two movements from The Planets
The Planets, composed for orchestra between 1914 and 1916, is a suite of seven tone poems, each describing the planets from Mars to Neptune; Earth was excluded and Pluto hadn't been discovered yet. At a time when Holst was finding large-scale composition difficult, due to demands on his time, his friend Clifford Bax talked to him about astrology. The clearly defined character of each planet suggested the contrasting moods of a work that was unlike anything he had yet written. The movements depicting Jupiter and Uranus will be performed this afternoon.
In the autumn of 1914, in an atmosphere of depressing news from the battlefronts of World War I, with uncertainty and worry uppermost in many people's minds, Holst began work on Venus and Jupiter; the former is one of the most sublime evocations of peace in music and the latter is a robust expression of unselfconscious jollity.
Holst had meant Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity to be “buoyant, hopeful and joyeous.” It has been suggested that this movement might serve as an overture for an English country festival on a great green meadow, where all men are friends. The horns usher in each of five themes, like the competing guilds in a pageant. The introduction is a genial, syncopated dance, expressing Holst's love of English folk tradition. In striking contrast, the middle section belongs to Holst's `other life' of school-singing and Morley College festivities. It is nearly always associated with the hymn I vow to thee my country, owing to the fact that Holst used it as a setting for these words years later. The frivolity of the games soon return with a conclusion in scales and arpeggios.
A brass incantation introduces Uranus, the Magician. Intricate rhythms in the woodwinds tease at wizardry and magic spells. The Magician's apprentices scurry about to his commands. The excitement increases around the cluttered workshop as the music builds in intensity; it seems certain that something will soon burst. A glissando, like the wave of the Magician's wand, sweeps everything away to a mystical hush, which seems to question all that has gone on before it. Echoes of the magic chords try to speak out one last time, but they succumb to soft woodwinds and a ghostly resolution by the trumpet and tympani.
Johann Nepomuk Hummel (1778 - 1837) was born in Pressburg, Hungary, then a part of the Austrian Hapsburg monarchy, the son of the conductor of the National Theater and, later, director of the Imperial School of Military Music in Vienna. He was a child prodigy who received musical instruction at age three, played the violin deftly at five, and the piano at six. The comparison to Mozart was not lost when the young Hummel was welcomed into the Mozarts’ home as a student and family member for two years. Hummel’s father then led him on a successful tour of Bohemia, Germany, Denmark, England, and the Netherlands that lasted four years. Returning to Vienna in 1793, Hummel began studies with Salieri and Haydn, a situation that put him into competition with and, later, created respect for Beethoven. Hummel succeeded Haydn as Kapellmeister at Prince Esterhazy’s court in Eisenstadt, a post he held for seven years, before moving to comparable positions in Stuttgart and Weimar, Germany. Hummel’s compositions never rivaled those of Haydn or Beethoven, but he was an important link between the classical and romantic styles. He was a prolific composer of masses, operas, ballets, cantatas, chamber music and, especially, piano music.
The Trumpet Concerto of Johann Nepomuk Hummel has become one of the staples of the trumpet repertoire. It was written for court trumpeter Anton Weidinger and his newly-invented keyed trumpet. The premiere took place before the Imperial court in Vienna on New Year’s Day 1804. Evidence suggests that Weidinger was the only trumpeter to perform the work in the 19th century. Technically superior valve trumpets and cornets superseded the keyed instruments about 1840 and the older instruments and their repertoire dropped from view. The Trumpet Concerto was forgotten until 1958, when Yale University student Merrill Debsky unearthed it as a potential recital piece. Unfortunately for Debsky, the manuscript from the British Museum didn’t arrive in time for the recital. Debsky sent it to Armando Ghitalla, who played it at a Town Hall recital and made the first recording in 1964. The Concerto that boosted the reputation of a traveling virtuoso continues to impress audiences today. The melodies are pleasing and the overall mood is exciting and of anticipation. The solo line is somewhat improvisatory and full of enthusiasm. The accompanying sections continue the feeling of excitement.