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Tag Archives: 1920s

Edwin Franko Goldman (1878-1956) was one of America’s premiere bandmasters.  He was born in Lexington, Kentucky to a musical family.  They moved to New York in his youth, where he studied composition with Antonin Dvorak and later began his career playing trumpet in the Metropolitan Opera orchestra.  In 1911, he formed the organization that would become the Goldman Band, a professional concert band that played outdoor concerts in New York City.  He also founded the American Bandmasters Association, an important and exclusive professional organization for band directors.  Through these groups, Goldman would commission and premiere numerous new works that are now standard repertoire for wind bands.  He was also a composer in his own right, with over 150 original works to his name.

He wrote The Chimes of Liberty in 1922 for the Goldman Band.  It is a standard American march, but with a chimes solo in the trio and a piccolo solo that sounds like it was ripped straight from The Stars and Stripes Forever. Like other Goldman marches, the trio section had words:

They’re the chimes of liberty,
Chimes that ring for you and me,
Where every loyal heart beats true,
They bring joy anew;
‘Tis a song of loyalty,
Of a nation brave and free,
Let us pray that they will ring for aye,
Our country’s chimes of liberty!

Feel free to sing along as The President’s Own United States Marine Band plays the march:

Loathe as I am to quibble with the US Marine Band on march style, I like to do a few things differently from this performance, which is largely by the book of the latest Schissel edition.  These changes add variety and excitement to the piece, and can be applied to any number of other marches.  They are based on my studies of march form with Wayne Bailey at Arizona State University, and have been tested in performance.

  • In the first strain, have the trombone countermelody folks play a little under dynamic the first time, then have them play out the second time.
  • In the second strain, take out everyone except tubas, horns, saxes, and clarinets the first time, and have the clarinets play down an octave.  Everyone who does play should stay at piano throughout.  Second time, as written.  All of these changes start on the PICKUP, by the way.
  • Trio first time, have the trumpets play the last note of their fanfare figure long.  Dr. Bailey also had them use cup mutes in this section.
  • Speed up ever so slightly in the last four bars, and place the stinger a hair early.

Read more about Goldman and his band.  If you’re looking for more information on the Goldman Band, look at print sources like Frank Battisti’s The Winds of Change or Richard Hansen’s The American Wind Band: A Cultural History. The websites that do exist (goldmanband.org and goldmanband.net) are relics from the Band’s acrimonious last days in 2005 (and have not been updated since), and they contain little in the way of history.

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 United States 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.

Frederick Fennell’s program notes to his edition of The Black Horse Troop tell the whole story of the march from a personal perspective:

The Black Horse Troop was completed December 30, 1924, at Sousa’s Sands Point, Long Island estate.  It was played for the first time about ten months later on October 17, 1925, at a concert of the Sousa Band in the Public Auditorium, Cleveland, Ohio – and I was there.  I had not been to such an event as this one; I remember that as Sousa’s march was being played, Troop A rode the stage and stood behind the band to the tumultuous cheering of all.  The March King enjoyed a long relationship with the men and horses of Cleveland’s Ohio National Guard, known as Troop A.

Once again his special comprehension of the thrilling spectacle of regimental movement produced a compelling musical experience for both the player and the listener, commanding our particular awareness of his use of the trumpets and drums at various dynamic levels.

During the half-century of his career as the most successful bandmaster who ever lived, there was both reason and necessity for his creating these wonderful marches – and among them all The Black Horse Troop is a positive standout.

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

The Black Horse Troop in a modern performance by the US Marine Band:

Born in Russia, Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971) was on track to become a lawyer until he began composition studies with Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov.  He started his career in Paris with three ballets written for choreographer Sergei Diaghilev and his Ballets Russes: The Firebird, Petrushka, and The Rite of Spring, the last of which is legendary for causing a riot at its premiere.   The Rite especially was a model of neo-primitivism, in which Stravinsky used very small cells of notes to create orchestral textures that often featured intense, driving rhythms.  In the 1920s he largely abandoned his primitivist tendencies and began writing consciously Neoclassical music, which at first baffled his contemporaries, although not as much as his turn to serialism in the 1950s.  Still, his music remained popular, and he was consistently seen as a bold and hugely influential composer, perhaps one of the most important of the 20th century.  His reputation endures today, with hundreds if not thousands of performances of his works happening every year.  He died an American citizen, having moved to California in 1939.

Shortly after Claude Debussy died in 1918, Stravinsky began sketching a piece in his honor.  He called it Symphonies of Wind Instruments, yet it was not a typical symphony.  Instead, Stravinsky meant the term in the more ancient sense of a group of instruments sounding together.  He thus constructed the piece in one movement as a disjunct procession of these varied instrumental groupings.  It first appeared publicly as a fragment from the end of the piece in piano reduction in the Parisian publication La Revue musicale, part of an issue dedicated to Debussy’s memory, in 1920.  The complete version was premiered under Serge Koussevitzky that same year, but gave Stravinsky little satisfaction in performance: he said that “Koussevitzky executed the work, in firing-squad fashion.”   It lay unpublished and largely unperformed until Stravinsky fled Europe and moved to Hollywood.  There, he substantially revised the piece between 1945 and 1947.  This revised version, which retains the dedication to Debussy’s memory, is the most often performed today.

The defining feature of Symphonies of Wind Instruments is Stravinsky’s use of the various instruments to create distinct symphonies of sound.  These groups often contrast and rarely overlap.  Tempo is another important factor in the piece.  Stravinsky uses three main tempos (essentially quarter note = 72, 108, and 144), always maintaining the eighth-note pulse within each one when using mixed meters.  These often change abruptly, but they are related by the ratio 2:3:4, and so easily performable exactly as Stravinsky asks.  Both the instrumentation blocks and the tempo sections usually end abruptly and without transition, creating a block form that is typical of Stravinsky’s broader output.  The general form of the piece has flummoxed analysts for nearly a century, with no two scholars able to agree on an exact formal plan.  The changes in orchestration and tempo, though, provide clues.  The piece is in two main sections, divided at rehearsal 42 (the first fermata).  Before that, Stravinsky introduces six different musical blocks and three types of transitions that are shuffled around and stated in various orders, never overlapping save for a broader transitional section at rehearsal 11.  After 42, only two of those blocks and a new transition type get any treatment, with the final chorale-like block occupying most of the second half.  Thus, Symphonies of Wind Instruments makes an overall move from activity and variety to stasis and sameness.  In the process, Stravinsky uses at least 37 different combinations of instruments.

The Netherlands Wind Ensemble plays the 1947 revision of the Symphonies in a very well-conceived video presentation.  Like the piece itself, the video focuses only on certain musicians at any given time:

Symphonies of Wind Instruments has inspired much scholarship, but little agreement.  Analyses have been attempted by Edward Cone, Thomas Tyra, Robert Wason, Jonathan Kramer, Jeremy Matthews, Alexander Rehding, and many others.  Less scholarly accounts of the piece can be found at Wikipedia, Boosey & Hawkes, the Kennedy Center (which did not check all of its facts!), the University of Maryland Wind Orchestra, and the LA Philharmonic.  For a conductor’s perspective, read about David Vickerman’s quest to find the perfect tempos on a recording.  These are just a handful of the dozens of internet articles about the piece, so go explore!

Stravinsky has biographies on Wikipedia, IMDb, and Boosey & Hawkes, as well as a Foundation in his name with an Internet presence.  So much has been written about him in print that the Internet hardly does him justice.  But here are some articles from humanitiesweb and Cal Tech (on his religious works), and some quotes from him, just to whet your appetite.

Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924) was an influential French composer and head of the Paris Conservatoire for 15 years in the early 20th century.  Although his own works were for the most part highly lyrical, he is thought to have spanned the gulf between the Romanticism that dominated the musical circles of his youth and the Modernism of his later years, in large part due to his role as head of the Conservatoire.  He was revered by the French people and fellow composers even to the end of his life, which is all the more remarkable given that his last years came after tumultuous changes in the music world that left many more conservative composers out of favor.

Fauré wrote Chant Funéraire (Funeral Song) in 1921 on a commission from the French government to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Napoleon‘s death.  He wrote it at age 75, after having retired from the Paris Conservatoire.  Despite his ill health, he continued to compose, creating 2 cello sonatas and numerous other pieces that seemed to posses a youthful energy.  He re-used the Chant Funéraire nearly verbatim as the second movement of the first cello sonata, showing that he must have had some affection for the material.  Fauré did not orchestrate the Chant Funeraire himself.  He left that to Guillaume Balay, who conducted the premiere performance with the Gardé Republicaine Band.  Myron “Mike” Moss created a new orchestration in 2003.  Says Moss in his score notes:

Balay’s orchestration offers the power called for by the state occasion of the premiere, but it is weighed down by the band music conventions of its time.  The scoring is thick throughout (a phenomenon found nowhere in Fauré’s own orchestrations), the score’s quiet moments are especially over-instrumented, and Fauré’s clean and sonorous voice leading is often obscured through inconsistent octave doublings.  The present orchestration emulates the transparent and clear scoring of Fauré’s own style.

There are a bunch of great internet sources for Chant Funéraire (and the related cello sonata): the Wind Repertory ProjectHal LeonardClassical Archives, the Trinity International University Concert BandNaxos, a session from the 2008 Midwest Clinic, and a review of the First Cello Sonata.  Fauré himself is featured on Wikipedia, a Facebook page, a YouTube artist pageNaxosNPR, and the BBC.

There appears to be only one recording of Chant Funéraire on YouTube.  Thankfully, it is a good one: Moss’s orchestration with Kevin Sedatole conducting a Texas regional honor band:

And here is the second movement of the First Cello Sonata, which uses exactly the same material:

Finally, two early gems of Fauré’s work that have personal meaning for me.  First, the Cantique de Jean Racine, which gave me one of my first profound experiences as a choral singer at Laurel Music Camp in between 9th and 10th grade:

Now the Chanson d’amour, which was sung during my wedding ceremony:

Born in Russia, Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971) was on track to become a lawyer until he began composition studies with Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov.  He started his career in Paris with three ballets written for choreographer Sergei Diaghilev and his Ballets Russes: The Firebird, Petrushka, and The Rite of Spring, the last of which is legendary for causing a riot at its premiere.   The Rite especially was a model of neo-primitivism, in which Stravinsky used very small cells of notes to create orchestral textures that often featured intense, driving rhythms.  In the 1920s he largely abandoned his primitivist tendencies and began writing consciously Neoclassical music, which at first baffled his contemporaries, although not as much as his turn to serialism in the 1950s.  Still, his music remained popular, and he was consistently seen as a bold and hugely influential composer, perhaps one of the most important of the 20th century.  His reputation endures today, with hundreds if not thousands of performances of his works happening every year.  He died an American citizen, having moved to California in 1939.

Stravinsky wrote the Octet (he also called it the Octuor) in 1922.  He conducted its premiere in Paris the following year. Its instrumentation is unusual, with 1 flute, 1 clarinet, and 2 each of bassoons, trumpets, and trombones.  About this, Stravinsky said: “The Octet began with a dream, in which I saw myself in a small room surrounded by a small group of instrumentalists playing some attractive music . . . I awoke from this little concert in a state of great delight and anticipation and the next morning began to compose.”  With its use of older forms like sonata and theme and variations, it marked the beginning of his Neoclassical phase, which was to last for most of the next three decades. Coming after intensely rhythmic and primitivist works like The Rite of Spring, the Octet sounds like a mockery of classical forms.  The first movement opens with an adagio introduction typical of classical sonata form, but utterly different in its melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic conceptions.  The sonata begins in earnest with a clear, allegro thematic statement.  It unfolds in typical sonata fashion: exposition, development, recapitulation.  The exact moment of recapitulation is hard to place: Stravinsky not only mirrors the restatement of his themes in the 2nd half of the movement, he also deceives the listener by stating only part of the primary theme toward the end, before finally giving the theme one last full airing at the very end of the movement.  The second movement is a fairly straightforward theme and variations.  It segues directly to the third, a rondo of sorts that is based on a Russian dance rhythm.

Here is but one performance:

For another perspective, listen to this recording of Leonard Bernstein conducting members of the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 1947 at Tanglewood.  Also, take a look at Bernstein’s markings in the score (of a later edition), via the New York Philharmonic archives.

Musicians love to talk about the Octet.  It has its own, extensive Wikipedia article, complete with a history and a formal analysis of each movement.  It was the subject of a doctoral dissertation at the University of North Texas in 2007, dealing specifically with the trumpet parts.  It is featured on the Wind Repertory Project.  This Boosey & Hawkes blurb has some great contemporary quotes on the piece (one of which I used above).  Stravinsky himself wrote an essay about it for the premiere, which he published in 1924.  This other essay refers to that.  Since the Octet has such legendarily fun bassoon parts (my favorite bit is the cascade in the 2nd movement, although the beginning of the 3rd also gets me every time), it’s only fitting that the principal bassoonist of the Columbus Symphony Orchestra would write a fantastic and detailed blog post about her experience with the piece.  Finally, it has a place in the Classical Archives.

Stravinsky has biographies on Wikipedia, IMDb, and Boosey & Hawkes, as well as Foundation in his name with an Internet presence.  So much has been written about him in print that the Internet hardly does him justice.  But here are some articles from humanitiesweb and Cal Tech (on his religious works), and some quotes from him, just to whet your appetite.

Kurt Weill (1900-1950) was a German composer whose musical theatre works have come to exemplify the Weimar Republic period in Germany.  He was born in Dessau to Jewish parents.  By World War I, when he was a teenager, he was a professional theatre accompanist.  He studied composition in Berlin, composing standard instrumental fare like tone poems and an orchestral suite.  In the 1920s, he began to make his mark on German music with theatrical pieces that played with American dance rhythms.  In many of these works he collaborated with the writer and political activist Bertolt Brecht.  His fortunes turned sour in the early 1930s, as the new Nazi regime ramped up a propaganda campaign against his popular, politically subversive works.  He fled first to Paris in 1933, then to the United States in 1935.  In America, he continued his successful career as a music theatre composer, collaborating with Ira Gershwin and Langston Hughes, among others.  He was still active on the Broadway scene when he died of a heart attack at age 50.

One of Weill’s most famous pieces was Die Dreigroschenoper (The Threepenny Opera).  He wrote the music in 1928 to words by Bertolt Brecht, based on The Beggar’s Opera by John Gay.  It tells the story of Macheath (Mack the Knife), a murderer in Victorian London.  In the spirit of the Weimar Republic, it also lampooned German society and capitalism.  It was one of the most popular works of the period: within five years, it had been translated into 18 languages and performed more than 10,000 times in Europe.  It had also attracted the attention of the serious music establishment in Germany.  Just four months after its premiere, conductor Otto Klemperer commissioned Weill to create a concert suite from the opera in the tradition of opera suites for winds from Mozart’s day.  Titled Little Threepenny Music (Kleine Dreigroschenmusik), Weill’s suite retains all of the unique character of the opera, with instrumentation that includes saxophones, a rudimentary drum set, and combination of guitar, banjo, and bandoneon among the more traditional wind instruments.  He even added some musical material, presumably because the original opera was written for actors who happened to sing rather than trained singers.  The suite comes in 8 movements:

I. Overture
II. The Moritat of Mack the Knife
III. The Instead-of Song
IV. The Ballad of the Easy Life
V. Polly’s Song
Va. Tango
VI. Cannon Song
VII. Threepenny Finale

The Ball State University Wind Ensemble plays the whole suite, bandoneon and all:

The number “Mack the Knife” took on a life of its own as a jazz standard and pop song with worldwide popularity that persists today.  Louis Armstrong is among the many renowned musicians to have recorded a version of the song:

I have to admit, when I think of Kleine Dreigroschenmusik, I can’t help but think of this:

And this:

both of which were certainly influenced by Weill’s work.

Read up on Kurt Weill on Wikipedia and the Kurt Weill Foundation for Music.  More info on The Threepenny Opera can be found at Wikipedia and its own website, run by the same Kurt Weill Foundation.  There is also a great entry on Little Threepenny Music at the Wind Repertory Project.

The William Byrd Suite is remarkable for showcasing the talents of 2 composers: the titular William Byrd (1540-1623), an English Renaissance composer and a founder of the English Madrigal School; and Gordon Jacob (1895-1984), a 20th century British composer who, along with Holst and Vaughan Williams, is known as an early champion of the wind band and a skilled composer in the medium.  Jacob assembled the suite in 1923, most likely as part of the festivities for the tercentenary of Byrd’s death.  He “freely transcribed” it from six pieces of Byrd’s keyboard work that appeared in the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book, a contemporary collection of almost 300 pieces written between about 1562 and 1612.  This collection contained keyboard works of more than a dozen composers.  While the collection had the virginal – a keyboard instrument that is essentially a portable harpsichord – in mind as its medium, the compositions inside could have been played on any contemporary keyboard instrument.

The virginal lacked any means of dynamic or timbral contrast: every note sounded the same and was just as loud as any other.  So composers for the instrument had to find other ways to make their music interesting.  Thus, the pieces in the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book are full of melodic variation and rhythmic invention.  While Mr. Jacob preserved all of this in his suite, he also artfully added the dynamic shadings and instrumental color that the wind band is known for.

The William Byrd Suite has 6 movements.  At 18 minutes, it’s a rather large undertaking to play all 6 movements.  So, as is common practice, we will play a selection of the movements: the first 2 and the last 2.  I present here videos of every movement, not necessarily in order.  Enjoy!

First, a very accomplished high school band plays “No. 1: The Earle of Oxford’s Marche”, “No. 3: Jhon come kisse me now” (at 3:10), and “No. 6: The Bells” (at 5:20).  I have 2 beefs with this performance: the end of the 1st movement needs much more drama, and I think the percussion got lost at the end of the 6th – you should hear crazy ringing bells all the way to the end!

Now, another high school age group tackles a different set of movements.  “No. 1: The Earle of Oxford’s Marche”, “No. 2: Pavana” (at 3:20), “No. 3: Jhon come kisse me now” (at 6:10), and “No. 5: Wolsey’s Wilde” (at 8:04).

The UCLA wind ensemble in 1983 doing “No. 4: The Mayden’s Song”.

Finally, here’s what “The Bells” sounds like in its original form: played on a virginal (ok, it’s actually a harpsichord, but that’s still in the ballpark) from Byrd’s manuscript.

Now some links:

Gordon Jacob on Wikipedia – note the middle names!

GordonJacob.org – a website run by the Jacob family promoting Gordon’s life and music

Fantastic program note and resource (particularly the errata) on the William Byrd Suite at windrep.org.

William Byrd on Wikipedia and Naxos classical.

Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) was an influential British composer and folk-song collector.  His powerful and expressive orchestral music is notable for its very “English” sound.  His early adventures collecting folk songs in the English countryside profoundly influenced his later compositions.  Along with Gustav Holst, his works for wind band form a foundation for the serious literature in that medium.

The English Folk Song Suite is one of those foundational works. It was written in 1923 and premiered at Kneller Hall, home of Britain’s finest military music academy.  It uses as its source material several English folks songs.  It is cast in 3 movements: a “March” subtitled “Seventeen Come Sunday”; an “Intermezzo” on “My Bonny Boy”; and another “March” subtitled “Folk Songs from Somerset”, which incorporates several different tunes.  A good summary of the movements and the folk songs involved in each is available at Wikipedia.  The original composition also included a fourth movement, Sea Songs, which Vaughan Williams later decided to publish separately.  While the English Folk Song Suite is a cornerstone of the wind band repertoire, it is not fully demonstrative of Vaughan Williams’s compositional powers.  Only the “Intermezzo” approaches the harmonic daring and lyricism that mark the rest of his work.  The remainder of the piece is a fairly straightforward, faithful setting of the folk songs.

Program notes on the Suite.

For curiosity’s sake, here’s a Facebook discussion board dedicated to the Suite.

A chapter on British wind band music from an online History of the Wind Band by Dr. Stephen L. Rhodes. Vaughan Williams and the English Folk Song Suite feature prominently.

So now let’s listen to the Eastman Wind Orchestra (one of the best in the world) play these movements:

The Ralph Vaughan Williams Society – the source for anything you might ever possibly want to know about the composer.

Vaughan Williams on Wikipedia.

Gustav Holst (1874-1934) was a British composer and teacher.  After studying composition at London’s Royal College of Music, he spent the early part of his career playing trombone in an opera orchestra.  It was not until the early 1900s that his career as a composer began to take off.  Around this same time he acquired positions at both St. Paul’s Girls’ School and Morley College that he would hold until retirement, despite his rising star as a composer.  His music was influenced by his interest in English folk songs and Hindu mysticism, late-Romantic era composers like Strauss and Delius, and avante-garde composers of his time like Stravinsky and Schoenberg.  He is perhaps best known for composing The Planets, a massive orchestral suite that depicts the astrological character of each known planet.  His works for wind band (two suites and a tone poem, Hammersmith) are foundational to the modern wind literature.

Holst wrote A Moorside Suite for a brass band competition in 1927. Fellow British composer Gordon Jacob arranged the suite for orchestra in 1952 and wind band in 1960.  Of the 3 original movements, the March continues to receive the most attention.

An anonymous band plays Moorside March:

Now the original brass band version:

Gustav Holst’s family website – a major source of information on the composer’s life and works.

Gustav Holst on Wikipedia.

Program note on the Moorside Suite.

Ron Nahass will conduct this piece at the 2011 Columbia Festival of Winds.  I have also conducted it with Columbia Summer Winds in 2008.

Gordon Jacob (1895-1984) was a 20th century British composer.  Along with Holst and Vaughan Williams, he is known as an early champion of the wind band and a skilled composer in the medium.  His 1928 An Original Suite is considered standard repertoire.  Its very title shows its significance: when it was first published (by Boosey), the publisher added the “Original” piece to the title, presumably to distinguish it from the many popular music arrangements that dominated the wind band repertoire at the time.

The Brooklyn College Conservatory of Music Wind Ensemble performed this whole suite very recently and put it on YouTube, which is very convenient for this site.

1st Movement: March

2nd Movement: Intermezzo

3rd Movement: Finale

Gordon Jacob on Wikipedia – note the middle names!

GordonJacob.org – a website run by the Jacob family promoting Gordon’s life and music.

Windband.org program notes for An Original Suite.

Original Suite page at gordonjacob.org – includes links to information about CD recordings, a brief discussion of the piece, and a CD review.