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Category Archives: Summer 2010

Dmitri Shostokovich (1906-1975) was one of the great composers of the 20th century, and certainly the greatest to emerge from the Soviet Union.  His relationship with the Soviet government, especially Soviet premier Joseph Stalin, defined nearly every aspect of his life.  He was born in St. Petersburg and grew up in the last years of tsarist rule in Russia.  The Bolshevik revolution of 1917 came when Shostakovich was 11, but its influence stayed with him the rest of his life.  His rise to fame came at the hands of an aid to Leon Trotsky, a father of the revolution.  Shortly thereafter, Trotsky’s exile and the death of Vladimir Lenin left  Stalin in charge, and he ruled with an iron fist and no patience for dissent or criticism of any kind.  The arts were to reflect the official reality of Soviet existence, and thus “Formalist” works (that is, any work that displayed hints of modernism or abstract content) were at least frowned upon, if not banned outright.  Shostakovich made something of a game of pushing as far towards this line as possible, sometimes even drifting past it.  He was officially denounced by the regime twice, only to later rehabilitate his reputation through new, more apparently pro-Soviet works.  At times the regime used him as a mouthpiece, and he seemed only too willing to comply.  Yet his works often show signs of weariness or outright contempt for his government.  His controversial memoir, Testimony, seems to confirm the notion that Shostakovich did not wish to support the Soviet regime.  However, the memoir’s emergence 4 years after his death and the murky circumstances of its creation, not to mention its appearance at the height of the Cold War, all call into question its truthfulness.  Still, Shostakovich undeniably made beautiful music, including 15 symphonies, an equal number of string quartets, large quantities of film music, and 2 operas which he held dear for his entire life.

Shostakovich wrote Festive Overture in 1954 on a commission for the Bolshoi Theatre’s celebration of the 37th anniversary of the October Revolution (in 1917).  Shostakovich completed the piece in less than a week.   It opens with an exuberant, rising fanfare which transitions to a spritely, lyrical main theme at a breakneck tempo.  The overture speeds past, with a brief return to the fanfare figure before an energetic coda.

The original orchestral version:

The Hunsberger band version by the University of Michigan Symphony Band and Michael Haithcock.

Here’s a trumpet-only version: 8 trumpeters from Juilliard!

Festive Overture on wikipedia, Kennedy Center program notes, and BSO kids’ music curriculum.

Shostakovich bio on Wikipedia.

The debate about Shostakovich and his allegiances rages on…

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Washington, D.C. native and legendary bandmaster John Philip Sousa (1854-1932) wrote a dozen operettas, six full-length operas, and over 100 marches, earning the title “March King”.  He enlisted in the United States Marine Corps at an early age and went on to become the conductor of the President’s Own Marine Band at age 26.  In 1892 he formed “Sousa and his Band”, which toured the United States and the world under his directorship for the next forty years to great acclaim.  Not only was Sousa’s band hugely popular, but it also exposed audiences all over the world to the latest, cutting-edge music, bringing excerpts of Wagner’s Parsifal to New York a decade before the Metropolitan Opera staged it, and introducing ragtime to Europe, helping to spark many a composer’s interest in American music.

Here are some well-researched program notes on Stars & stripes from the Band Music PDF Library.

Stars and Stripes Forever (march) is considered the finest march ever written, and the same time one of the most patriotic ever conceived.  As reported in the Philedelphia Public Ledger (May 15, 1897) “… It is stirring enough to rouse the American eagle from his crag, and set him to shriek exultantly while he hurls his arrows at the aurora borealis.” (referring to the concert the Sousa Band gave the previous day at the Academy of Music). (Research done by Elizabeth Hartman, head of the music department, Free Library of Philadelphia.  [Quote] taken from John Philip Sousa, Descriptive Catalog of his Works (Paul E. Bierley, University of Illinois Press, 1973, page 71)).

The march was not quite so well received though and actually got an over average rating for a new Sousa march.  Yet, its popularity grew as Mr. Sousa used it during the Spanish-American War as a concert closer.  Coupled with his Trooping of the Colors, the march quickly gained a vigorous response from audiences and critics alike.  In fact, audiences rose from their chairs when the march was played.  Mr. Sousa added to the entertainment value of the march by having the piccolo(s) line up in front of the band for the final trio, and then added the trumpets and trombones [to] join them on the final repeat of the strain.

The march was performed on almost all of Mr. Sousa’s concerts and always drew tears to the eyes of the audience.  The author has noted the same emotional response of audiences to the march today.  The march has been named as the national march of the United States.

There are two commentaries of how the march was inspired.  The first came as the result of an interview on Mr. Sousa’s patriotism.  According to Mr. Sousa, the march was written with the inspiration of God.

“I was in Europe and I got a cablegram that my manager was dead.  I was in Italy and I wished to get home as soon as possible.  I rushed to Genoa, then to Paris and to England and sailed for America.  On board the steamer as I walked miles up and down the deck, back and forth, a mental band was playing ‘Stars and Stripes Forever.’ Day after day as i walked it persisted in crashing into my very soul.  I wrote in on Christmas Day, 1896.” (Taken from program notes for the week beginning August 19th, 1923.  Bierley, John Philip Sousa, page 71.)

Researched by Marcus L. Neiman, Medina, Ohio

 

The wikipedia article on Stars & Stripes is bit thin on references, but it does allow you to listen to a vintage recording of Sousa himself conducting the march, from 1909.  The Stars & Stripes page at the Dallas Wind Symphony has other old recordings and Sousa’s original lyrics for the march.

Read more about the Sousa Band and its history at naxosdirect.com. Click the link that says “Read more about this recording.”

Sousa shrine – including biography, complete works, and much more – at the Dallas Wind Symphony website.

John Philip Sousa on Wikipedia

Stars & Stripes is one of many Sousa marches (and other pieces by turn of the 19th-20th century composers) available at the Band Music PDF Library for free.  I encourage any enterprising band directors to take a look.

Check out this legit performance of Stars & Stripes, courtesy of the President’s Own United States Marine Band.  If you don’t like the conductor’s very informative monologue, skip to the performance at around 1:00.

Now, the Muppets’ take on Stars & Stripes:

Finally, an inspiring trombone choir version:

Star Trek began as a 1960s television series that imagined a future of interstellar travel and exploration of progressive values.  While the original series lasted only 3 seasons, its impact continues to be felt today, and it stories and characters have spawned some of the most devoted, passionate fans that have ever existed (“Trekkies“).  There have been many spin-off shows, including an animated series with the original characters and new casts in The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and Enterprise.  There have also been 12 feature films made in the Star Trek franchise (13 if you count the 1999 parody Galaxy Quest).  Alexander Courage’s theme music from the original show is almost universally recognized.  Composer Michael Giacchino used this theme when composing new music for the 2009 reboot of the movie franchise.  The Symphonic Suite uses chunks of Giacchino’s original film score, including the bit that highlights Courage’s original theme.

Here is the Columbia Summer Winds performing the Symphonic Suite in Central Park in 2010:

Here are some clips from the actual movie soundtrack.  This one begins with “Enterprising Young Men”, which forms the beginning of this arrangement.

Here is the original theme music for the series:

Other interesting Star Trek links:

Star Trek Online: an immersive online game.

StarTrek.com

stwww.com – bills it self as “the mother of all fan sites”

Feel free to post more links in the comments!

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.

Johann Strauss II (1825-1899) was considered the king of the waltz in his day.  He is credited with bringing the waltz into fashion in his native Austria, particularly the cultural and political capital of Vienna.  He wrote hundreds of compositions, mostly light dance music and operettas, many of which have endured to the present.  His most famous works include the Blue Danube waltz and the operetta Die Fledermaus.

Johann Strauss II on Wikipedia.

Strauss tribute page at bobjanuary.com.

Johann Strauss has his own society – in Great Britain.

Die Fledermaus (1874) tells a twisted comic tale of betrayal, abandonment, drunken revelry, and revenge.  It is one of the world’s most-performed operas.

Die Fledermaus on Wikipedia.

Carlos Kleiber conducts the Bavarian State Orchestra in the Die Fledermaus overture:

Percy Grainger (1882-1961) was a piano prodigy turned composer who was known for his strange personal habits, his colorful prose, and his equally unusual music – his many admirers today still recognize that he possessed “the supreme virtue of never being dull.”  Born in Australia, he began studying piano at an early age.  He came to the U. S. at the outbreak of World War I and enlisted as an Army bandsman, becoming an American citizen in 1918.  He went on to explore the frontiers of music with his idiosyncratic folk song settings, his lifelong advocacy for the saxophone, and his Free Music machines which predated electronic synthesizers.  His many masterworks for winds include Lincolnshire PosyIrish Tune from County DerryChildren’s March and Molly on the Shore.

Grainger originally wrote Molly on the Shore in a 1907 string setting as birthday gift for his mother (who exerted perhaps an undue influence on him during her lifetime).  The wind band setting is but one of many, and it appeared in 1920.  Two quotes about this piece illustrate the uniqueness of Grainger’s approach to music:

In setting Molly on the Shore I strove to imbue the accompanying parts that made up the harmonic texture with a melodic character not too unlike that of the underlying reel tune. Melody seems to me to provide music with an initiative, whereas rhythm appears to me to exert an enslaving influence. For that reason I have tried to avoid rhythmic domination in my music — always excepting irregular rhythms, such as those of Gregorian Chant, which seem to me to make for freedom. Equally with melody I prize discordant harmony, because of the emotional and compassionate sway it exerts.

And:

One of the reasons why things of mine like Molly on the Shore and Shepherd’s Hey are good is because there is so little gaiety and fun in them.  While other composers would have been jolly in setting such dance tunes, I have been sad or furious.  My dance settings are energetic rather than gay.

So what does the internet have to say about Molly on the Shore?  Plenty!

Molly on Wikipedia

David Goza’s informative essay entitled “Molly on the Shore: a Minor Miracle”.

As a novelty item, Molly arranged for band and 4 marimbas.

Version for alto sax and piano arranged by Paul Cohen, with excellent program note on the page.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.  Watch a video of a great performance in the meantime:

Percygrainger.com – much general information on the composer with a focus on his wind band works.

International Percy Grainger Society – Based in White Plains, NY, they take care of the Grainger house there as well as the archives that remain there.  They also like to support concerts in our area that feature Grainger’s music.

Grainger Museum – in his hometown of Melbourne, Australia, at the University there.

Grainger’s works and performances available at Naxos.com

Finally, I know this is already up on the other Grainger pages, but it’s just so good:

One more look at Grainger on YouTube, this time performing on the piano:

Brooklyn’s Gershwin brothers, George and Ira, were among the leading Tin Pan Alley songwriters of the 1920s and 30s, with countless popular songs and six Broadway musicals to their name.  But George (1898-1937), who wrote all of the music to Ira’s lyrics, longed for a place in the classical music pantheon.  In 1924, his Rhapsody in Blue for piano and band (later orchestra) established his credentials as a serious composer.  Its use of jazz elements within classical structures became a hallmark of Gershwin’s style.  His Piano Concerto in F and An American in Paris continued in this direction, culminating in his 1935 opera Porgy and Bess.  Despite his success in the classical arena, Gershwin’s requests for lessons with other major composers were repeatedly denied.  Arnold Schoenberg, for example, told him “I would only make you a bad Schoenberg, and you’re such a good Gershwin already.”

Porgy and Bess is based on DuBose Heyward’s novel Porgy.  It follows the adventures of Porgy, a crippled black beggar in South Carolina.  All of its major roles are black characters, which has led some to see the opera as racist.  These concerns have largely given way to the beauty and intensity of the music, helped by Ira Gershwin’s insistence that the opera only be performed with a black cast.  Because of this requirement the opera is rarely given a full staging.  However, the many memorable numbers from the opera can be heard regularly in a variety of arrangements such as the one we are playing.

Porgy and Bess on Wikipedia.

Origin of the opera and detailed story synopsis on classical.net.

A preview of Heyward’s Porgy on Google Books.

Porgy and Bess on PBS Great Performances.

About the composer:

Gershwin.com – the official Gershwin family website.

George Gershwin bio at balletmet.org.

Another Gershwin bio, with portraits, at naxos.com.

And now some video!

The South Jersey Area Wind Ensemble plays the James Barnes arrangement of Porgy and Bess, played be the Columbia Summer Winds in the 2010 under the baton of Bill Tonissen:

There is also a Robert Russell Bennett version of Porgy and Bess for band, called the Porgy and Bess Selection.  Unfortunately there are no decent recordings of this at my disposal, including the CUWE recordings in 2003 and 2006, which are marred by a terrible recording device and a terrible performance venue (Miller Theatre) respectively.

An excerpt from the opera itself, as recorded for film based on a 1986 Glyndebourne Opera production:

There are several other clips like this on YouTube which you can find if you click around a bit.

Finally, a bonus: Gershwin plays his hit “I Got Rhythm” in 1931.


Dr. Edward Green is an award-winning composer and music educator, as well as a prolific scholar of music history, music criticism, and Aesthetic Realism. He currently sits on the faculty of both the Manhattan School of Music and the Aesthetic Realism Foundation. The most recent addition to his numerous prizes and awards is his nomination for a 2010 Grammy Award for his Concertino for Piano and Chamber Orchestra in the “Best Classical Contemporary Composition” category.

Overture in E-flat originated during Green’s period as composer-in-residence for the InterSchool Orchestras of New York in 2004-05. After its first performance by the ISO Symphonic Band under the direction of Brian Worsdale, the piece lay dormant for several years. In summer 2009, Green attended a performance of the Columbia Summer Winds in Washington Square Park. After hearing this performance, he contacted their music director, Andy Pease (me), to help revive the Overture in E-flat. Dr. Green and I subsequently worked together to re-orchestrate and expand the piece. This new edition of the piece was premiered by the Columbia University Wind Ensemble on March 7, 2010 and replayed by the Columbia Summer Winds, with some further revamping,during the 2010 season.

Dr. Green has an extensive website that includes his full biography. I recommend exploring the site a good deal. His scholarly articles are probing and very accessible. My favorite so far analyzes the melodies in Rodgers & Hammerstein’s South Pacific.

Dr. Green’s faculty page at the Manhattan School of Music.

His faculty page at the Aesthetic Realism Foundation.

The ever-evolving MIDI file of the Overture in E-flat, posted 5/11/2010. This is the closest to a “real” recording of this you’re going to get. I promise it’s good and accurate! It begins with a couple seconds of silence, so please be patient when listening.

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:

Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990) was an erudite, passionate musician whose exceptional talents and expressive gifts earned him a special place in the hearts of New Yorkers.  He rose to instant national fame in 1943, at age 25, when he filled in for the suddenly ill Bruno Walter as conductor of a nationally televised New York Philharmonic performance.  He went on to become the Philharmonic’s music director until 1969, and remained a frequent guest conductor there until his death.  With the Philharmonic, he presented a series of 53 educational Young People’s Concerts which were broadcast on CBS, making him a familiar face around the nation.  He also composed music, crossing from academic classical music into Broadway musicals, including West Side StoryOn the Town, and Candide.

Bernstein’s operetta Candide (1956) is based on the French philosopher Voltaire’s satirical 1759 novella of the same name.  Candide is an innocent young man who lives in a sheltered paradise.  He is mentored by Dr. Pangloss, who believes that they live in “the best of all possible worlds.”  This optimistic principal is tested to the breaking point as Candide is cast out of his reverie into one abhorrent trial after another.  By the story’s end, he has seen everything he ever loved wither away amidst death, destruction, and deceit on a massive scale all over the world.  He finally amends his life’s philosophy to the more pragmatic “let us cultivate our garden.”  The story amounts to a thorough skewering of the then-fashionable optimistic philosophy, with a few jokes at the expense of government, religion, and society thrown in for good measure.  Voltaire’s original version is one of the most widely-taught pieces of literature in the Western canon.  Bernstein’s operetta, though not a success in its first incarnation, is a staple in the repertoire of opera companies around the world.

The Overture to Candide is the most famous excerpt of the operetta.  It is played hundreds of times all over the world every year.  It is considered to be sort of the theme song of Bernstein’s beloved New York Philharmonic, who have played it without a conductor ever since his death.  2 band transcriptions exist, one by Walter Beeler, the other by Clare Grundman (we’re playing the Beeler).

Video 1: Band version (the ending gets away from them a bit).

Video 2: Bernstein himself conducts it!

The Candide Suite was arranged by Clare Grundman.  Its five movements each are based on one number from the operetta: “The Best of all Possible Worlds”, “Westphalia Chorale and Battle Music”, “Auto-da-fe”, “Glitter and Be Gay”, and “Make Our Garden Grow”.

Columbia Summer Winds only did the final movement of the suite, “Make Our Garden Grow”.  So here is the band version as realized by Grundman, a good performance but perhaps a bit quick for my taste:

Now a concert performance of the actual opera version, with Bernstein himself conducting.  The sound is a bit out of sync with the video, and the volume level is quite low, but crank it up (no really, CRANK IT UP!!) and it’s absolutely worth it, a truly, deeply moving experience:

Now some links:

Leonardbernstein.com – a true treasure trove of everything Bernstein, including many personal reflections by friends, relatives, and colleagues.

Leonard Bernstein on Wikipedia.

The Leonard Bernstein Collection at the US Library of Congress.

A lengthy and heartfelt essay on Bernstein and his influence at classicalnotes.net.

Voltaire’s Candide on wikipedia – highly recommended reading!

Full text of Voltaire’s Candide at literature.org – also recommended reading!

Sparknotes version of Candiderecommended for both its summary and its rather in-depth analysis.  I think it’s longer than the book itself!

Candide the operetta on wikipedia.

Candide the drinking game – bonus for those of you who got down this far.

Overture to Candide is a 2011 senior choice for hornist and CUWE Vice-President Carmen Sheills.