Suite for Strings
John Rutter (1945- )
British composer John Rutter is known primarily for his choral works and arrangements of Christmas carols. But he wrote a few orchestral works. One of the finest is his Suite for Strings (1973), based on four well-known English folksongs: “A-roving”, “I have a bonnet trimmed with blue”, “O, Waly Waly”, and “Dashing away with the smoothing iron”.
Petite Symphonie (little symphony for wind instruments)
Charles Gounod (1818-1893)
Following the 1870 Prussian victory in the Franco-Prussian War, France’s music underwent considerable renovation, writes Dr. Michael Fink for the Rhode Island Philharmonic. In instrumental music, there was a distinct trend toward neo-classicism that affected the music of Bizet, Saint-Saëns, Gounod, and many younger composers.
A significant outcropping of the new trend was the establishment of new “societies” of music and other arts. Among these was the Société des Concerts du Conservatoire. In 1870, the famous flutist, Paul Taffanel, became its conductor. Charles Gounod was a close friend of Taffanel, and it was for his ensemble that the composer wrote the Petite Symphonie in 1885. The instrumentation calls for one flute, pairs of oboes, clarinets, bassoons and horns: surely a neo-classic group inspired by the Harmoniemusik divertimentos of Mozart, Dr. Fink writes. The work premiered in 1885 with Taffanel and the Société ensemble. In this music, we can hear a pre-echo of Stravinsky’s early neo-classic works, the Symphonies of Wind Instruments (1920) and the Octet for wind instruments (1923). These men laid the groundwork for 20th-century Parisian composers like Stravinsky, Milhaud and Poulenc.
John Cheetham (1939- )
Commemorative Fanfare for brass and timpani was commissioned by the University of Missouri-Columbia College of Arts and Science for the university’s 1979 graduation exercises.
Nimrod, from the Enigma Variations
Edward Elgar (1857-1934)
Edward Elgar composed his Variations on an Original Theme, Opus 36, popularly known as the Enigma Variations between 1898 and 1899, for orchestra. Each variation is a musical sketch of one of Elgar’s circle of close acquaintances.
The “Nimrod” variation (the ninth one) has become popular in its own right and is sometimes used at British funerals, memorial services, and other solemn occasions. It is always played at Britain’s National Service of Remembrance on the second Sunday in November (similar to the United States’ Veterans Day). An adaptation of the piece appears at the ending of the 2017 film, Dunkirk, as part of the score.
Perhaps because it is associated with memorials, Nimrod has been transcribed for band, and for brass ensembles, many times. The NPOI brass section is playing an arrangement by Don Joseph.
Suite for Solo Trumpet, Brass and Percussion
Charles Mandernach (1937- )
Suite for Solo Trumpet, Brass, and Percussion was composed in 2015 on commission from trumpeter Larry Spencer, and is designed to showcase the artist’s talent, versatility, command of the instrument, and musicianship. It is comprised of four movements: Fanfare, Dance, Serenade, and Celebration.
“Fanfare” is an energetic, highly rhythmic, and articulated short introductory piece built on a melodic – and sometimes harmonic – intervallic base of fourths and fifths. Key centers shift often and poly-chords provide harmonic richness and some tonal ambiguity (there are few tonic chords). It features rhythmic vitality and highly articulated melodic passages.
“Dance” is a rhythmic/melodic piece that makes extensive use of mixed meter, and juxtaposes duple and triple divisions of the beat. The solo part features wider melodic intervals that demonstrate the soloist’s technical flexibility. The dissonance of the opening ensemble notes, repeated later, contrast with the more harmonious content of most of the piece. Percussion parts, particularly tambourine, add color and rhythmic vitality.
“Serenade” is a jazz ballad with some cross-over classical influences. Some atypical harmonic progressions are thrown in to set it apart from a more “standard” tune. At the end the solo trumpet gets to play a few bars of improvised jazz.
“Celebration” is a “big and brassy” piece in a show tune style. The solo part showcases still another aspect of Mr. Spencer’s versatility –his impressive high range. The percussion section provides some rhythmic vitality, and the ensemble adds not only a solid foundation and accompaniment, but has its own chance to come to the front. The solo trumpet once again has a few bars of improvised jazz, leading to the brilliant final notes.
—notes by Charles Mandernach, composer
Larry Spencer, soloist
Larry Spencer moved to Texas in 1977 from Columbus, Ohio, where he attended the Capital University Conservatory of Music.
In 1977, Spencer enrolled at the University of North Texas and became a member of the famed One O’Clock Lab Band, appearing on the album, Lab ’78. He also performed in the graduate brass quintet. Spencer’s professional career was launched when he was invited to travel with the Buddy Rich Big Band in 1980. Later he toured with the Woody Herman Orchestra. He was the first trumpet player at the Fairmont Hotel in Dallas from 1985-1988.
As a classical brass player, Spencer has played principal and section trumpet with the Richardson Symphony, Arlington Philharmonic, East Texas Symphony, Texas Wind Symphony, and Ft. Worth Symphony.
—notes compiled by Susan Scheib