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Category Archives: Yale Concert

Massachusetts native Frank Perkins (1908-1988) made his name as a composer while working for Warner Brothers in Los Angeles.  His works crossed genres from songs, notably “Stars Fell on Alabama”, to light classics like Fandango to a wealth of television and film music.  He was nominated for an Oscar for his work on 1962’s film version of Gypsyin which he served as conductor, arranger, and music supervisor.  He graduated in 1929 from Brown University (with an economics degree), then toured Europe as a pianist in the 1930s before returning to the US and forming his own dance band.  Subsequent work with Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians led to the job at Warner Brothers in 1938, where he stayed until retirement in the late 1960s.

Floyd Werle (1929-2010) was a University of Michigan alumnus who served as the arranger for the US Air Force Band for 32 years.  He created hundreds of arrangements and was renowned for his harmonic daring and orchestrational finesse.  He arranged Perkins’s Fandango in 1954.  Here it is (with the first 8 or so bars cut off) performed by a very fine German band:

And here is Perkins’s own orchestra performing his original version:

The fandango is a song and dance form from Spain and Portugal that originated in the early 1700s.  It became popular as an instrumental form for serious treatment by composers by the end of the 18th century.  It is a 3/4 dance that is accompanied by castanets and often features a descending harmonic progression.  See one early treatment by Luigi Boccherini:

And another that focuses on the castanet-bearing dancers:

Sadly, Fandango for band is currently out of print.  Write a review of it on the JWPepper site so we can push to get it back!

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908) was a nationalist Russian composer and master orchestrator famous for symphonic works like Scheherazade and Capriccio Espagnol.  He was born into a family with a history of military service in which he eventually followed.  He started piano lessons at age 6 and composition at 10. Around the time of his graduation from military school, he met Mily Balakirev, who introduced him to fellow young composers César Cui and Modest Mussorgsky, heightening Rimsky-Korsakov’s interest in a composition career.  Eventually, with the addition of Alexander Borodin, these composers would call themselves The Five and advocate for a specifically Russian approach to composition.  Later in his career, Rimsky-Korsakov became the Inspector of Bands for the Russian Navy as well as a professor at the Saint Petersburg Conservatory, which now bears his name.

Procession of the Nobles (Cortége) was written in 1889 as part of the opera-ballet Mlada.  Although it was originally begun in 1872 as a collaborative effort with three other composers, the initial project fell through.  Rimsky-Korsakov completed it himself  nearly 20 years later.  I defer now to Eric Bromberger’s excellent program note for the Los Angeles Philharmonic:

Rimsky-Korsakov’s Mlada, first produced in 1892, almost defies the effort to describe it. In form it is half-opera and half-ballet, and its libretto is unbelievably complex, even by the standards of opera librettos. Set a thousand years ago in an imaginary kingdom called Retra on the shores of the Baltic, Mlada tries to fuse Wagnerian opera with ancient Russian legend, and the result is an absolutely fantastic story. Princess Mlada, a role that is danced rather than sung, has been murdered by her rival Voyslava, who sets out to secure the love of Yaromir, Mlada’s lover. The story involves magic, evil spirits, and trips into the underworld, and at the climax an entire village is submerged by an overflowing lake and Yaromir and Mlada are seen ascending on a rainbow.

Mlada has not held the stage, and the only familiar music from it is the Procession of the Nobles, the orchestral introduction to Act II, which begins with a festival of tradespeople. The music bursts to life with a rousing brass flourish, soon followed by the processional music, a noble tune for strings in E-flat major. This is music of color and energy, and in the opera it is punctuated by shouts from the crowd at the festival. A central section just as vigorous as the opening leads to a return of the march tune and a rousing close.

Rimsky-Korsakov made an orchestral suite from the opera, of which Procession of the Nobles is the final movement.  You can see the full score here.  Also, there is another great program note from the University of Wisconsin bands.

Here is the standard band transcription, arranged by Erik Leidzen:

And now the original orchestral version:

There is also a very nice version for young band arranged by Jay Bocook:

Want to read a biography of Rimsky-Korsakov on the Internet?  You have a lot of options!  Try Wikipedia, allmusic, ClassicalNet, and Encyclopedia Britannica.  Also check out his collected works on IMSLP.

I conducted this at my very first concert with the Columbia University Wind Ensemble in 2002.  It was then conducted by Ena Shin at our joint concerts with the Yale Concert Band in 2007.  This summer (2013) Bill Tonissen will conduct it with the Columbia Summer Winds.

Malcolm Arnold (1921-2006) was born Northampton, England to a family of prominent shoemakers.  Early interest in jazz led him to take up the trumpet, which eventually led him to the position of Principal Trumpet with the London Symphony Orchestra.  By the end of the 1940s his career had become almost entirely focused on composition.  He went on to write 132 film scores, including the 1958 Oscar recipient Bridge on the River Kwai, nine symphonies, seven ballets, twenty concertos, a handful of theatre music, and wealth of brass band and wind band music.  He was knighted in 1993 for his service to music, having been hailed as one of the major composers of the twentieth century.

The score for Prelude, Siciliano and Rondo (1963) provides the following program note:

Prelude, Siciliano and Rondo was originally written for the brass bands for which England is well-known.  It was titled Little Suite for Brass.  John Paynter’s arrangement expands it to include woodwinds and additional percussion, but faithfully retains the breezy effervescence of the original composition.

All three movements are written in short, clear five-part song froms: the ABACA design will be instantly apparent to the listener while giving the imaginative melodies of Malcolm Arnold a natural, almost folk-like setting.  The Prelude begins bombastically in fanfare style, but reaches a middle climax, and winds down to a quiet return of the opening measures that fades to silence.  The liltingly expressive Siciliano is both slower and more expressive, affording solo instruments and smaller choirs of sound to be heard.  It, too, ends quietly.  The rollicking five-part Rondo provides a romping finale in which the technical brilliance of the modern wind band is set forth in boastful brilliance.

Malcolm Arnold has a website and a wikipedia bio.

I attach only one video here.  It is the Columbia University Wind Ensemble performing this piece under my direction at Yale University in February, 2007.  I dare say that, despite its few faults, it is one of the finer performances on YouTube.  It certainly has good sound quality, and we certainly articulated the dotted-quarter-eighth patterns well in the first movement.  No one else can claim both those distinctions!  So listen and enjoy.

Educated at the University of Michigan, composer Frank Ticheli (b. 1958) has become one of the biggest names in new wind band repertoire.  Since 1991 he has been a Professor of Composition USC-Thornton and, until 1998, Composer in Residence of the Pacific Symphony.  The recipient of many awards, he was most recently winner of the 2006 NBA/William D. Revelli Memorial Band Composition Contest for his Symphony No. 2.

Ticheli provides his own program note for Nitro:

Nitro, an energy-charged three-minute fanfare for band, was commissioned by the Northshore Concert Band, Mallory Thompson, music director, in celebration of their 50th anniversary season, and received its premiere performance by them on April 9th, 2006.

Nitrogen is the most abundant component of the Earth’s atmosphere (78 per cent by volume), and is present in the tissues of every living thing. It is the fifth most abundant element in the universe, created by the fusion deep within stars; it has recently been detected in interstellar space. The sheer prevalence of nitrogen in all of nature, and the infinite range of compounds it is part of — life-giving, energizing, healing, cleansing, explosive — all appealed to me, and served as the inspiration for my music.

The main musical idea for Nitro is a powerful, angular theme, first announced by the trombones and horns, and then imitated in the trumpets. Trumpet fanfare calls and a busy and relentless chattering in the woodwinds enhance the bright, festive mood.

The middle section is based on a woodwind theme that is partly fanfare-like, partly dance-like. This contrasting theme is built from intervals occurring in the natural overtone series (octave and twelfth), giving it an expansive, open-air quality. The main theme reappears, growing in power and density all the while, building to a thunderous conclusion.

Frank Ticheli

More info on Nitro can be found here, at Ticheli’s publisher’s website.  This site is also home to a complete, downloadable set of mp3s of the vast majority of his large ensemble music – quite a find!

Frank Ticheli’s personal website, Frankticheli.com.

Ticheli bio on wikipedia.

Frank Ticheli’s Facebook fanclub.

A video interview with Ticheli in which he talks about composing.

Now here’s Texas All State band: