Program Notes


Program Notes
American Brass Quintet
April 16, 2015
During the reign of Elizabeth I and continuing with James I, the arts in England flourished. Literary figures-Shakespeare, Ben Johnson and Bacon--as well as composers--Dowland, Morley, and Holborne--have irresistible appeal to
us today and easily depict the exuberance of Elizabethan life. English musicians of the day were in such demand on the
continent that many of them took posts as court musicians and teachers in other countries. This is the case with the
composers Simpson and Dowland. Although Simpson worked his entire life in Germany, Dowland left England for
religious reasons, returning home in 1604 to publish his important instrumental collection Lachrimae. This collection,
along with Holborne's Pavans, Galliards, etc. for Viols, Violins or other Musicall Winde Instruments, is among the most
extensive of English instrumental music. Insight into the style of English performance practices can be gained from
Morley's Plaine and Easie Introduction to Practical Music (1597) and the First Book of Consort Lessons. A composer of
incidental music for Shakespeare's plays, Morley, in his Consort Lessons, includes many arrangements of popular tunes
and vocal pieces to be played by a "broken" (assorted) consort of instruments. In his madrigals he includes the footnote
"to be sung or played by viols or other winde instruments"--encouraging instrumental performances of these pieces.
Included in our set of pieces here are Morley's own instrumental setting of Joyne Hands and two madrigals by one of the
most illustrious of English madrigalists--Thomas Weelkes. The other pieces in this set with "dance" titles (Almain and
Pavan) were probably never danced to at all. These works resemble the earlier dance forms in title and characteristic
rhythm only. Occasionally they even express some of the most contemporary ideas as in Dovehouse Pavan by the English
born Alfonso Ferrabosco II. As in all of their editions of early music the American Brass Quintet is adhering to many of the
practices of the day. Florid ornamentation and the use of other brass instruments in producing varied consorts certainly
enhance the vitality and spirit of this music of Elizabethan England.
Note by Raymond Mase
Born February 8, 1789 in Potsdam.
Died October 25, 1878 in St. Petersburg.
Splitting his career between his native Germany and St. Petersburg, Ludwig Maurer was well-known as both a violinist
and composer. His technique must have been extraordinary, as his pre-Paganini compositions demand spiccato, multiple
stopping, and complex bowing. His Symphony op. 67 and Sinfonia Concertante op. 55 for four violins were both
performed often in his lifetime. Maurer devoted his later years to directing opera in St. Petersburg. In 1871, as a member
of the opera committee at the famed Marynsky Theater, he joined in a veto of Boris Godunov, bitterly disappointing
Mussorgsky. They objected not to the bold modern sounds that Rimsky-Korsakov would later feel compelled to "correct,"
but to the lack of a prominent female role and to certain "ungodly" demands inflicted upon the double basses! Maurer's
sons became prominent Russian musicians, and his oldest, Vsevolod, eventually assumed directorship of the Italian Opera
in St. Petersburg.
The five pieces presented here are taken from a set of twelve, originally scored for two B-flat trumpets, two E-flat
horns, and trombone. As the earliest brass chamber works of significance heard in St. Petersburg, their brevity and simple
structure recall older ceremonial traditions in brass ensemble performance, as in the Leipzig tower music of Johann Pezel
(1639-1694), but the required delicacy and nuance encourage a more intimate setting.
Note by Chris Gekker
JAY GREENBERG: Quintet for Brass, Op. 25
The young and gifted Jay Greenberg has already created a significant catalogue of solo, chamber, and orchestral
literature that examines and builds upon classical forms. The youngest composer ever to have an exclusive agreement
with Schirmer/AMP, Greenberg's other notable first achievements included exclusive contracts with Sony Classical and
with IMG Artists.
His first Sony Classical CD showcases his Symphony No. 5 — recorded by the London Symphony Orchestra under
José Serebrier — and his Quintet for Strings — with the Juilliard String Quartet and cellist Darrett Adkins. Marin Alsop and
the Baltimore Symphony recorded his tone poem, Intelligent Life, for release on a second Sony all-Greenberg disc. A
recording of I Still Keep Mute is forthcoming.
Born in 1991 in New Haven, CT, Greenberg displayed an early aptitude for cello, piano, and composing. Choosing
composition, his formal lessons with Antony John in theory and composition began when he was seven; three years later
he enrolled as a scholarship student in a special program at New York's Juilliard School of Music, where he took
composition classes with Samuel Adler, music theory with Samuel Zyman and Kendall Briggs, and multiple courses in ear
training and piano. This was later followed by composition classes at the Yale School of Music. He is currently studying at
Cambridge in England.
Note by the composer:
The Quintet for Brass was completed on 29 February 2012 in response to being awarded a commission from the
American Brass Quintet Emerging Composer Commissioning Program, funded by the Jerome Foundation. It is
approximately 14 minutes in duration.
The work went through several versions before reaching its final form. A short first draft was discarded, whereas
a second version was too difficult to play and unidiomatically composed for the instruments. Fortunately the members of
the American Brass Quintet were able to provide invaluable feedback and technical assistance, for which I am quite
grateful. As so often happens when I attempt to “revise” a piece, the final version ended up being an entirely new piece
unrelated to the earlier drafts.
WITOLD LUTOSŁAWSKI: Mini Overture for Brass Quintet
Witold Lutosławski was born in Warsaw in 1913 and soon showed his prodigious musical and intellectual talent.
He studied at the Warsaw Conservatory (1932-37) and soon made his mark as a pianist and composer. During these
studies, Poland lived through a politically difficult time. Lutoslawski's attempts at studying in Paris were therefore
replaced by military training, imprisonment by the Germans and escape back to Warsaw. He and Adrzej Panufnik survived
the war playing piano in cafes (where amongst others the Paganini Variations (1941) were created). Few works from
before 1945 have been published: those that have include the Paganini Variations for two pianos.
After the war, the Stalinist regime banned his first symphony (1941-47) as "formalist," but he continued to
compose and in 1958 his Musique Funebre, in memory of Bartók, established his international reputation. He had by then
developed a clear, fresh tonality related to late Bela Bartók, displayed in the Little Suite for orchestra (1951), the Concerto
for Orchestra (1954) and the Dance Preludes for clarinet and piano (1954). But that style was short-lived: in the late 1950s
he was able to essay a kind of serialism (Funeral Music for strings, 1958) and to learn from John Cage the possibility of
aleatory textures. Lutosławski's own personal aleatoric technique whereby the performers have freedom within certain
controlled parameters was first demonstrated in his Jeux Venitiens (1961) and is to be found in almost all the later music.
Most of his subsequent works were orchestral, fully chromatic, finely orchestrated in a manner suggesting
Debussy and Ravel, and developed from an opposition between aleatory and metrical textures. These include his Second
(1967), Third (1983) and Fourth (1993) symphonies, concertos for cello (1970) and for oboe and harp (1980), and settings
of French verse with chorus (Three Poems of Henri Michaux, 1963), tenor (Paroles Tissées, 1965) and baritone (Les
éspaces du sommeil, 1975). During this period he was also internationally active as a teacher and conductor of his own
Over the years, Witold Lutosławski was frequently inspired by particular ensembles and artists including the
London Sinfonietta, Sir Peter Pears, Heinz and Ursula Holliger, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Mstislav Rostropovich and AnneSophie Mutter.
Among many international prizes awarded to this most modest man were the UNESCO Prize (1959,1968), the French
order of Commandeur des Arts et des Lettres (1982), Grawemeyer Award (1985), Royal Philharmonic Society Gold Medal
(1986), in the last year of his life, the Swedish Polar Music Prize and the Inamori Foundation Prize, Kyoto, for his
outstanding contribution to contemporary European music, and, posthumously, the International Music Award for best
large-scale composition for the Fourth Symphony.
Mr. Lutosławski was composer in residence at the Aspen Music Festival in summer of 1984, where the
American Brass Quintet gave the US premiere of the Mini Overture for Brass Quintet. The following is extracted from a
note by Philip Jones: This work was a birthday present from Witold Lutosławski to Philip Jones' wife Ursula and was
given its first performance in her home town Lucerne, Switzerland in March 1982 by the Philip Jones Brass Ensemble.
Despite its brevity this is a fully characteristic Lutosławski piece with its detail structure and its sensitivity to timbre and
nuance. There are three short sections played without break; the third being a further development of the first, and
the second of slightly slower and contrasting texture.
In the late 16th century, the madrigal was the most progressive form of musical composition, and the Italians were the
leading madrigalists. Claudio Monteverdi, best known for his pioneering efforts on behalf of early opera, composed
madrigals of remarkable harmonic invention and expressive range. "Si ch'io vorrei morire" (Yes, I would like to die), and
"Ah, dolente partita" (Oh, painful separation), are beautiful examples of the musical sophistication and daring that
characterize the late Italian madrigal. These madrigals, from his fourth book of madrigals, were published in 1603, while
Monteverdi served as music director to the Duke Vincenzo Gonzago of Mantua. He left this post in 1612, and from 1613
until his death in 1643, he served as "maestro di capella" (choirmaster) at San Marco in Venice -- continuing a long
tradition of prominent musicians associated with the cathedral that included Adrien Willaert, the Gabrielis, and later
Antonio Vivaldi. Monteverdi dominated the Italian musical scene during these crucial, early stages of the Baroque, and
his surviving works include three operas, nine volumes of madrigals, three Masses, the Marian Vespers, and many other
Vesper psalms and motets.
Strictly speaking, the madrigal is a work of vocal chamber music. We know thet instrumental doubling and substitution
was common in the late 1500's, and the inclusion of Italian madrigals in 17th century consort-music collections supports
the idea of purely instrumental performances of the madrigals of the period. With clarity, homogeneity of sound, and a
vocal flexibility not often associated with brass playing, the American Brass Quintet hopes to realize these madrigals as
what they truly are -- some of the most beautiful and expressive music ever written.
Note by Raymond Mase
ERIC EWAZEN: Frost Fire (1990)
Frost Fire was gratefully dedicated to the American Brass Quintet in honor of their 30th anniversary. Over these
past nineteen years, it has been performed worldwide and has been recorded on the Well-Tempered label. It was
commissioned by them in 1989 with support from the Jerome Foundation. The work, based on traditional musical forms
and models, is in three movements.
The first movement, marked Bright and Fast, is a joyous celebration of sonorous chords, playful motives, and
rhythmic gestures. It is in a strict sonata-allegro form with a clearly defined and classically proportioned expositiondevelopment-recapitulation framed by complimentary introduction and coda sections.
The second movement, marked Gentle and Mysterious, has a waltz-like feel to it. In a ternary (A-B-A) form, the
outer sections consist of ribbons of melodies being gently passed from instrument to instrument. The middle section is a
stately fugue that builds in intensity, volume and rich-sounding resonance.
The final movement, Tense and Dramatic, brings back material from the first movement, but sets it in a much
more turbulent and frenetic environment. Although this movement is based on the skeletal outlines of a sonata-allegro
form, it is much freer and more erratic, with shifting meters and contrasting, interpolated passages, ultimately leading the
way to a heroic and dynamic conclusion.
Note by the composer
Eric Ewazen (b. 1954, Cleveland), Composer-in-Residence of the St. Luke's Chamber Ensemble in New York City,
studied under Samuel Adler, Milton Babbitt, Gunther Schuller, and Joseph Schwantner at the Eastman School and The
Juilliard School (where he received numerous composition awards, prizes, and fellowships). His works have been
performed by numerous ensembles and orchestras in the U.S., overseas, and at festivals such as Woodstock, Tanglewood,
Aspen, Caramoor, Tidewater, and the Music Academy of the West, among others. Mr. Ewazen's music is published by
Brass Ring Editions, Triplo Press, Encore Music, Southern Music, Boosey & Hawkes, Seesaw, and Eric Ewazen Publishing.
He has been lecturer for the New York Philharmonic's Musical Encounters Series, Vice-President of the League of
Composers--International Society of Contemporary Music, and Composer-In-Residence with the Orchestra of St. Luke's in
New York City. Eric Ewazen has been a faculty member at Juilliard since 1980.