Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky was born in Votkinsk, Russia, in 1840, the son of a well-to-do mining engineer. He studied law and at 19 started work as a clerk with the Ministry of Justice. He resigned his post after 4 years to pursue his interest in music at the St. Petersburg Conservatory. In 1866, he went to Moscow, where he was appointed professor of harmony at the new Conservatory. He completed his First Symphony there, along with the opera The Voyevode. In 1869, he completed his ballet Romeo and Juliet on an outline suggested by Balakirev. New inspirations flowed with his second symphony (Little Russian), three operas, a third symphony (Polish), and the Piano Concerto in B flat. Following a disastrous marriage of just 9 weeks, Tchaikovsky attempted suicide and suffered a mental breakdown. Shortly afterward, a wealthy widow, Madame von Meck, became his patron and gave him an annual salary but on the condition that they never meet. He was able to give up teaching and he produced some of his most memorable music. After 14 years of support, von Meck stopped all payments when she thought she was bankrupt. Tchaikovsky recovered financially, but not spiritually. He enjoyed a visit to the United States, where he conducted his works for the opening of Carnegie Hall in 1891. Shortly after the premiere of his Pathétique symphony, he drank some contaminated water, some evidence suggests intentionally in a state of depression, and died of cholera on November 6, 1893.
Dance Of The Jesters
The Dance Of The Jesters was composed as incidental music for the ballet The Snow Maidens. The ballet is not based on the Hans Christian Andersen story, but on a contemporary Russian fantasy-play Snegourochka. The Snow Maiden, daughter of Father Frost, falls in love with a human, Misgir, and plans to marry him. However, Misgir is already betrothed to Coupava. The Snow Maiden follows him southward to interrupt his wedding, but she falls victim to the warmth of the sun and melts. The Dance is an incredibly lively affair that has stood out from the songs, dances, and choruses of the ballet. It captures the color and zest of Russian folk dance.
Symphony No. 4 in F Minor, Finale
Composed by Tschaikowsky during the winter of 1876-7, this symphony is a splendid example of the great Russian's remarkable inventive powers, originality, and overwhelming command of instrumental effects and resources. The Finale of this symphony is splendidly adapted for performance by a Military Band. The movement, individually considered, may be described as a wild rondo. There are three chief themes -- the first is exposed at the beginning by all the higher instruments, fortissimo against sustained chords in the brass. The second follows immediately, a folk tune In the Fields there stood a Birchtree. The third theme appears after a return of the first, a joyous, march-like melody, sounded in harmony by the full band. It is in this way that the composer succeeds in drowning his despair and fatalism in a wild proclamation of pseudojoy, with which the symphony comes to a tumultuous end.
Jaime Texidor Dalmau (1884 - 1957) lived most of his life in Baracaldo, a picturesque city in northern Spain. He studied composition and conducting in Barcelona before joining the army in 1906 as saxophonist in the military band. After 13 years in the military, he directed a number of bands. From 1928 until his death, he was the director of the Baracaldo Municipal Band. He also taught piano and violin and established a music publishing company. His compositions numbered over 500 and included marches, paso dobles, boleros, foxtrots, jotas, sambas, tangos, schottishes, and waltzes.
This paso doble was composed in 1925 and premiered in the Spanish town of Carlet, where the composer lived at the time. Jaime Texidor named it after one of his piano students, then 12 year old Amparito (diminutive of Amparo) Roca. The vivace tempo holds throughout this internationally recognized two-step march. Variations in dynamics in the main melody and the ornamentation from a solo flute provide interesting color to this composition.
Frank Ticheli was born in 1958 in Monroe, Louisiana. He received his Bachelor of Music in Composition from Southern Methodist University and Masters Degree in Composition and Doctorate of Musical Arts from the University of Michigan. He is Associate Professor of Music at the University of Southern California and is the Composer-in-Residence of the Pacific Symphony Orchestra. He has composed works for bands, wind ensemble, orchestra, chamber ensembles, and the theatre. His music has garnered many prestigious awards including the Goddard Lieberson fellowship and Charles Ives Scholarship from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters; the 1989 Walter Beeler memorial Composition Prize; the Ross Lee Finney Award; and first prize in the 11th annual Symposium for New Band Music in Virginia. The New York Times has described his music as “lean and muscular and above all, active, in motion.”
The hymn Amazing Grace was written by John Newton (1725-1807), a slaveship captain who, after years of transporting slaves across the Atlantic Ocean to the New World, suddenly saw through divine grace the evilness of his acts. Ticheli's interpretation was commissioned by John Whitwell in loving memory of his father, John Harvey Whitwell, and was first performed in 1994. Ticheli wrote:
“I wanted my setting of Amazing Grace to reflect the powerful simplicity of the words and melody -- to be sincere, to be direct, to be honest -- and not through the use of novel harmonies and clever tricks, but by traveling traditional paths in search of truth and authenticity.”
“I believe that music has the power to take us to a place that words alone cannot. And so my own feelings about Amazing Grace reside in this setting itself. The harmony, texture, orchestration, and form are inseparable, intertwined so as to be perceived as a single expressive entity.”
This composition reflects Frank Ticheli’s love for the traditional jazz music that he heard so often while growing up near new Orleans. Blue Shades was his opportunity to express his own musical style in this medium. He provides the following description of the work:
As its title suggests, the work alludes to the Blues, and a jazz feeling is prevalent — however, it is in not literally a Blues piece. There is not a single 12-bar blues progression to be found, and except for a few isolated sections, the eighth-note is not swung.
The work, however, is heavily influenced by the Blues: “Blue notes” (flatted 3rds, 5ths, and 7ths) are used constantly; Blues harmonies, rhythms, and melodic idioms pervade the work; and many “shades of blue” are depicted, from bright blue, to dark, to dirty, to hot blue.
At times, Blue Shades burlesques some of the clichés from the Big Band era, not as a mockery of those conventions, but as a tribute. A slow and quiet middle section recalls the atmosphere of a dark, smoky blues haunt. An extended clarinet solo played near the end recalls Benny Goodman’s hot playing style, and ushers in a series of “wailing” brass chords recalling the train whistle effects commonly used during that era.
Cajun Folk Songs IIIn this second setting of Cajun folk melodies, Frank Ticheli has been inspired by the tunes of early French colonists who settled in Acadia (now Nova Scotia) and were then driven out by the British in 1755, eventually settling in Louisiana. Ticheli describes the introductory brass chorale of the Ballad as “a deeply personal moment of reflection.” The movement is dedicated to the memory of his father, Frank P. Ticheli, III (1934 - 1996). The folksong Aux Natchitoches (a town in northern Louisiana) first appears in an 18th Century rendition. The dark and haunting tone of the english horn conveys the melancholy nature of this version. The brass introduce the lighter 19th Century interpretation. These melodies are varied and notated to reflect the inflections of the Cajun language. Country Dance is original material that Ticheli has crafted in the style of a Cajun two-step dance. It has stylistic similarities to Scottish dances or American hoe-downs. This highly spirited movement was composed in celebration of the birth of the composer’s nephew, Ryan Paul Ticheli, in 1996.
The Shenandoah Valley and the Shenandoah River are located in Virginia. The origin of the name for this river and valley is obscure. The origins of the folk song are equally obscure, but all date to the 19th century. Many variants on the melody and text have been handed down through the years with the most popular telling the story of an early settler’s love for a Native American woman. The composer wrote:
“In my setting of Shenandoah I was inspired by the freedom and beauty of the folk melody and by the natural images evoked by the words, especially the image of a river. I was less concerned with the sound of a rolling river than with its life-affirming energy — its timelessness. Sometimes the accompaniment flows quietly under the melody; other times it breathes alongside it. The work’s mood ranges from quiet reflection, through growing optimism, to profound exaltation.”
Mt. Vesuvius, the volcano that destroyed Pompeii and Herculaneum in A.D. 79, is the icon of power and energy in this work. The tension and suspense of the impending cataclysm characterizes the introduction of the main themes. Driving rhythms and complex mode changes convey a bacchanalian mood that is interrupted by quotations from the Dies Irae of the medieval Requiem Mass, invoked as a symbol of death and destruction. An image of everyday village life in the towns oblivious to the danger, portrayed in a quiet interlude, is disturbed by the first fiery events on the mountain. A final battle of themes builds to a state of extreme agitation, conveying the chaos of the pyroclastic explosions and suffocating ash.
Joan Tower was born in 1938 in New Rochelle, New York, but grew up in South America. She took courses in composition with Brant and Calabro and studied the piano at Bennington College, receiving her B.A. in 1961. Continuing studies at Columbia University, she earned her M.A. in 1964 and D.M.A. in 1978. She organized the DaCapo Players in 1969 and was their pianist when they won the Naumburg Award in 1973. In 1972, she began teaching at Bard College, NY, where she is still a professor. Tower currently serves as composer-in-residence for the Orchestra of St. Luke's with her term running to the 2002 season. She has been recognized with a 1976 Guggenheim fellowship, National Endowment for the Arts fellowships in 1974, 1975, 1980, and 1984, and an Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters award in 1983.
Celebration Fanfare from "Stepping Stones"
The music for the ballet “Stepping Stones” (1993) was commissioned by choreographer Kathryn Posin for the Milwaukee Ballet. Joan Tower's rhythmically and harmonically muscular score was developed in close collaboration with Posin’s choreography. Tower commented: “As a composer, I've always thought of myself as a closet choreographer. Texture, space, speed, direction, all the words that apply to dance also apply to music.” Friend and fellow composer Jack Stamp suggested to Tower that the final movement, Celebration Fanfare, would transcribe well into an arrangement for wind band, not suspecting that she would give him the task. The rising tones of the Fanfare are fitting for the progressive stages of a woman’s development, which is the subject of the ballet.
In composing Gabrieli’s Trumpet, I wanted to personalize the work with elements close to the dedicatee, Al Sturchio. Speaking to his friends and colleagues, I learned he was a proud Italian-American, played trumpet, loved jazz music and as Executive Director of TBA was driven to make the organization the best it could be. The six and a half minute work is jazz inspired laced with motives and musical figurations from Italian composer Giovanni Gabrieli’s Canzon Sonare No. 4. The musical flow is constant and insistent from one section to another. The second section features a trumpet solo, which can be described as “Gabrieli in an Italian villa eating spaghetti and meatballs taking in some jazz music.”
Encouraged by the acceptance of Toccata (the 1970 A.B.A. Ostwald winner) I was motivated to try my hand at another band work in theme-and-variation form similar to Variations on an Advent Hymn. I considered using a number of tunes found in the Episcopal Hymnal but always seemed to gravitate to Thomas Tallis’ setting of the second psalm. My reluctance to finalize this choice was caused by the awareness that Ralph Vaughn Williams had used the same material for his Fantasia for Double String Orchestra (1910), a work with which I was quite familiar. Nonetheless, against the advice of some of my colleagues, I decided to take the plunge.Tull’s beautiful and haunting Sketches introduces the theme with a solo alto saxophone, later punctuated by horns and fully harmonized by the brass. He skillfully develops six motifs built upon major and minor triads using variations of tempo, rhythm, and instrumental timbre. The major climax of the piece occurs before the end in a recapitulation of the theme peaking in intensity. Largamente and scherzando sections conclude with a final chord.