Friday, February 24, 2017

When the professor is away the students will have a listening party?

Atlantic Brass Quintet (
While Professor John Manning was in College Station, TX for the 2017 Texas A & M Chamber Music Symposium with the Atlantic Brass Quintet the students of his Advanced Brass Literature Class had a listening party per his suggestion.  Professor Manning is in the center of the picture above.  I hope the quintet had a wonderful time with host Dr. Timothy Rhea and composer Dr. David Maslanka.  

The first selection we listened to was from the pen of David Sampson.  Breakaway is written for two trumpets and electronics.
Prior to taking this class my total exposure to Sampson's music was limited to two pieces.  Outburst for band recorded by Rutgers Wind Symphony under the direction of Dr. William Berz  and Echoes and Other Ghosts for Brass Quintet.  I heard the latter in a live performance years ago.  I find his music to be reflective and thoughtful. 

Our second selection was the Ingolf Dahl's Music for Brass Instruments.  This is written for brass quintet/sextet of two trumpets, horn, trombone, bass trombone, and optional tuba.  
Dahl's music is carefully crafted, difficult to perform, contrapuntal, and rhythmically challenging.  I have had the pleasure and pain of preparing and performing in concert bands on Dahl's Sinfonietta and the Concerto for Alto Saxophone and Wind Ensemble.  Both works are underperformed due to difficulty and Dahl's desire to continue editing his music.  The Concerto is a fine work and one of the most aesthetically pleasing experiences I have had as a performer in a concert band.  

Our third selection of the party was John Rutter's Gloria.  We only listened to the third movement of the work for time, but I have included the whole recording here.  The work comes in two arrangements one for orchestra and one for brass ensemble.  The brass scoring calls for four trumpets, three trombones, tuba, two percussion, organ, and SATB choir.  

If you have sufficient choral forces this piece is accessible for a good church choir, but it is challenging to sing (I'm a tenor and I have sang this work.)  It is easy to overwhelm a 40 piece choir with the brass instrumentation as I have also played tuba for a performance twice.  Rutter's music is very accessible to the general public and it is a nice addition to any church service.  Modern enough for hard core contemporary classical listeners and popular enough for the laymen.  I am thankful to have the privilege of experiencing this piece of music with my fellow community members in performance.

Our fourth selection of the morning was Richard Bissill's Corpendium I for Horn Sextet.  Visit this link to hear a portion of the work.
Bissill was the principal horn of the London Symphony and according to his website he is Section Principal of the Royal Garden Opera House.
If you are a fan of the Lord of the Rings film trilogy you have heard him play.  He has composed primarily for Horn, Brass, and a couple of orchestral pieces.  

The final selection of the morning, was my own choice.  I could not decide if I wanted to share the Divertimento for Brass Quintet/Ensemble by the late Karel Husa, To Saint Cecilia for Brass Ensemble and SATB choir by Norman Dello or the least played of Paul Hindemith's Konzertmusik for Brass Ensemble.  I finally chose the Konzertmusik for Brass, Two Harps, and Piano op. 49.  For time I only played the final movement.  I have included the full performance.  The piece calls for an orchestral brass section: four horns, three trumpets, three trombones, and tuba.
The final movement uses the time signature 3 over dotted half note.  I guess he did not want to write it out in 9/8 time.  Too many sixteenth notes to write.  If you can find two harpists in your neck of the woods, this is an excellent piece to showcase your brass ensemble.  Hindemith took great care in crafting the work for balance.  The writing is reminiscent of his Kammermusik series.  Hindemith wrote this in his mid 30's and it was the next to last work he assigned an opus number to.  Hindemith stopped applying opus numbers to his works following Konzertmusik for Strings and Brass op. 50.  I have a weakness for good 20th century counterpoint and I do appreciate how well Hindemith wrote for the brass section.  I hope you enjoy the music from our party.   

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