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Farnaby's Conceit

The Fitzwilliam Virginal Book comprises nearly 300 works composed for keyboard by notable English court composers from the time of Queen Elizabeth. William Byrd, Giles Farnaby, John Bull, Orlando Gibbons, Thomas Tomkins, to name a few, all contributed to the collection. I've orchestrated 20 or so of these pieces for brass quintet and brass ensemble - they're fun to work on because, while representing perhaps the purest forms of renaissance style, the simplicity of the music itself is a blank canvas. The piece below is No 273 in the collection titled Farnaby's Conceit. It is among the shortest of all the pieces in the entire collection. Early 20th century German music theorist Heinrich Schenk

Breaking up the Romance

Too soon? I'm having too much fun with these titles. I promised to talk about the decision to transpose this movement of Robert Schumann's Romance Opus 94 No 1 from A minor to G minor. There's nothing inherently scary about writing in A minor for brass ensemble, and it sounds good (some keys don't). The reason is simple - I did not want to compromise Schumann's registration of the piece. In measure 20, there is a high E in the solo part (Schumann even wrote an ossia 8vb note for oboe intending the high E for a solo violin performance, but I like the way that phrase is shaped with the high pitch). The high E for B flat piccolo trumpet is an F sharp - certainly playable by a great player, but

More advice on Romance

One of the things I appreciated about teaching was that I learned things about my own playing by observing and articulating ideas to students. Teaching made my own playing better. I'm discovering the same benefit here, By describing the decision making behind choices I've made in my own writing, I'm fine tuning my own orchestrating skills - sharpening the tools in my toolbox. So - thanks for that. While preparing the examples for this morning's parable, I discovered 2 fine tuning adjustments I want to make to this page of brass score. That's just these 8 measures. This can also be a slippery slope of second guessing. Back to our story. This is measures 47 through 54 of the piano score from

Schumann Romances

...orchestrated for brass. I've loved Robert Schumann's Opus 94 Romances since the 80's. I heard them first on a cello recital, and then Floyd Cooley released a solo album with his tuba versions. Permanently hooked. Several years ago, the Boulder Brass put together a program of music by romantic composers or inspired by them. This was the first time we played some of the Brahms I had arranged, and we also played an Ewald Quintet and the Jan Koetsier Symphony for Brass. To round out the program, I wanted to make these Schumann Romances work for brass ensemble. Schumann had skills. Interesting and unusual melodies, and brilliant piano writing that suggests more than the limited notes you see o

Limoges - The Big News

Sadly, only a few of the sketches by Victor Hartmann that inspired Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition have survived. We must rely on the various editions and the voluminous scholarship regarding the titles and inscriptions that marked the movements of the suite. Apparently, movement 7 (Limoges) had originally included the inscription "French women quarreling in the market." The music would seem to suggest the hustle and bustle of a busy market place with many simultaneous discussions. I'm not certain why Mussorgsky would have scratched this suggestion, other than the music speaks for itself. This movement was relatively easy to orchestrate in that there are very few necessary compromises

Mussorgsky's Pictures

I'm always surprised that some still believe that Maurice Ravel's orchestration of Pictures at an Exhibition is the 'original&#3

Keeping the trombones out of the pub

I usually carry around a small notebook that has only one purpose - it is used to write down new project ideas when I hear them (or think of them, or when somebody suggests something to me - ask any one of the Boulder Brass what AIYA means). I've been meaning to work on this project (represented by the featured image above) for a while, and when I heard it on the radio again the other day, I wrote it down in my notebook AGAIN - Johannes Brahms' Intermezzo Opus 117, No 3. This set of Intermezzi was composed late in Brahms life (1893) and the tone is characterized by Brahms' own inscription "cradle songs of my sorrows." Yesterday, I finally carved out some time for note entry and to make the i

Little Red Riding Hood

I've been a big fan of Rachmaninoff's music for many years, but arranging his music for brass presents, in some cases, insurmountable problems. He was a virtuoso pianist with huge hands and his piano writing reflects that. He was a master of pianistic effect (lots of notes used to create a canvas) and those effects are difficult to orchestrate in a way that doesn't compromise the music too much. And his orchestral writing is very dense and rich. I've had various preludes and etudes in the hopper for a long time, but have never finished them - I always seem to run into a wall. 7 years ago, I had the fortune to travel to Japan on a sister cities exchange with a brass quintet and a pianist, and

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