• Gunther Schuller
  • Symphony for Brass and Percussion (1950)

  • Malcolm Music (World)
  • 00004.6.3+bar.2timp.2perc
  • 18 min

Programme Note



Composer Note:
The purpose in writing this piece was primarily to write a symphony. Secondarily it provided me with an opportunity to make use of my experiences of sitting day in, day out, in the midst of brass sections, and to show that members of the brass family are not limited to the stereotypes of expression usually associated with them. Thus, there is more to the horn than its “heroic” or “noble” or “romantic” character, or to the trumpet than its usefulness in fanfares. Indeed, these instruments are capable of the entire gamut of expression. Their full resources and the amazing advances made— especially in America— (during the mid twentieth century) have been left largely unexploited by most contemporary composers.

The concept of the Symphony is of four contrasting movements, each representing one aspect of brass characteristics. Unity is maintained by a line of increasing inner intensity (not loudness) that reaches its peak in the last movement. The introductory first movement is followed by a scherzo with passages requiring great agility and technical dexterity. The third movement, scored almost entirely for six muted trumpets, brings about a further intensification of expression. The precipitous outburst at the beginning of the last movement introduces a kind of cadenza in which the first trumpet predominates. A timpani roll provides a bridge to the finale proper, which is a kind of perpetuum mobile.

Running through the entire movement are sixteenth-note figures passing from one instrument to another in an unending chain. Out of this chattering pattern emerges the climax of the movement, in which a chord consisting of all twelve notes of the chromatic is broken up in a sort of rhythmic atomization, each pitch being sounded on a different sixteenth of the measure.

— Gunther Schuller

Movements:
I. Andante— Allegro— Andante
II. Vivace
III. Lento desolato
IV. Quasi cadenza— Allegro

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