Vincent Persichetti (1915-1987) was a piano and organ prodigy who was supporting himself with his musical talents by age 11. A lifelong Philadelphia resident, he took full advantage of that city’s music institutions. At age 20, he was simultaneously the head of the music department at Combs College, a conducting major with Fritz Reiner at the Curtis Institute, and a piano and composition student at the Philadelphia Conservatory. His distinctly original compositions began to be recognized internationally before he was 30. His skyrocketing reputation led to his appointment at the Juilliard School, where he became the chair of the composition department at age 47. He died in 1987, leaving behind a unique body of work in almost every musical medium, including a number of masterpieces for the wind band. Among these is the Divertimento for Band, op. 42, written for the Goldman Band.
There are many articles out there about the Divertimento: the Wind Repertory Project, The Concord Band, BandDirector.com, The Claremont Winds, and the OCU Band Program Notes Database all shed light on the piece. But the authority on all of Persichetti’s wind music, as with all other composers, is Frederick Fennell, whose chapter on the piece in the book A Conductor’s Interpretive Analysis of Masterworks for Band brims with scholarship and creative, interpretive insight. To paraphrase: Persichetti started writing this piece with an orchestra in mind in 1949. He began with a prologue that featured the brass section tossing the woodwinds back and forth. Midway through this movement, he realized that the strings were never going to enter – thus began this master’s impressive oeuvre of sophisticated, accessible wind music. The Divertimento showcases Persichetti’s lyricism, playfulness, harmonic daring, and superb orchestration skills, all while remaining accessible to the player and listener. A listen will certainly help us understand, so I give you the North Texas University Wind Ensemble with Eugene Corporon conducting:
And for variety, our friends at the Manhattan Wind Ensemble: