Concerto for Trumpet, Strings and Timpani
When I was a little boy, six or seven years old perhaps, my French Waldensian grandfather, Amadeo, used to sit me in his lap and read to me in French portions of the Book of Revelation. These images terrified me. At the same time they fascinated me. In 1951 my grandfather died when I was ten years old. Since then those stories of angels and dragons causing mayhem and destruction left an everlasting and profound impression on me.
So it was many years later in 1973 that I decided to write a work for trumpet and revisit those cherished moments with my beloved grandfather. In particular Apocalypse XI:15 Le septième ange sonna de la trompette (The seventh angel sounded the trumpet) was in mind. This Concerto for Trumpet composed in memory of my grandfather won the second prize in 1977 in a competition during the Maracaibo Music Festival in Venezuela. I consider this my second and most important work produced after embracing the effervescent minimalist movement in New York City during that decade. The first among my minimalistic works was …from the earth… composed in 1972 for an improvisatory chamber ensemble. The premiere performance can be heard on the Navona CD Unbridled.
During the late1970’s I was overly engaged in teaching courses at New York University and renovating a brownstone in Brooklyn. There was unfortunately no time to produce a set of parts for the thirty string players. As a result the Concerto was not performed at the Maracaibo Festival. Fast forward to 2015. While cataloguing my works I looked over the score and decided to transcribe it to Finale which, in under ten minutes, produced a set of strings and timpani parts that were unattainable, as such, four decades earlier back in 1977.
This Concerto, which I regard as an aria for trumpet that holds sovereign sway over the strings and timpani, lasts fifteen minutes and has three definite sections. They unfold however in a faceted continuum. At the time, as I recall, I envisioned a vast canvas with streaks of vibrant hues. The first section, introduced by a menacing trumpet solo, is foreboding and violent. The second is a tumultuous duet between the timpani and the trumpet. The final meditative section recalls the Voices of Heaven in the violas and celli later in company with the timpani and trumpet which leads to an apocalyptic crescendo.
Sergio Cervetti, August 2016
craig madden morris
A Child’s Day
A Child’s Day began as a suite for string orchestra with percussion. As I was composing the music, I was struck by the lightness and sweetness of the themes that emerged and I decided to dedicate the music to my four precious grandchildren: Benjamin, Maya, Ella and Isaac. They have become the center of my and my wife Nancy’s lives in so many ways for the past ten years. Our time with them is always special. When I completed the music, the names of the three movements emerged as the most fitting, both in describing the feelings that the music elicits and in touching the fullness of a child’s day in a fresh new world as they experience it daily. Morning Smiles is music that is the slow awakening of a child with open yawns and parents’ smiles, as eyes open to the fresh, sunny morning as the day begins. Playtime is the wonderful, creative fun and silliness that is the essence of a child interacting with the world; a world without preconceived notions of structure, but open to new ways of being, learning and enjoying the company of others. Sweet Dreams is the day as it comes to a close; as the tired child drifts off to sleep with warm memories of the day just concluded, tucked in and given a kiss by the parents to seal the day.
Betty R. Wishart
Concertante No.1 “Journey into the Unknown”
Betty Wishart’s Concertante No. 1 is subtitled “Journey into the Unknown”. Composed for strings, winds and French Horn, it truly is a journey for both the mind and the heart. For the mind, the trek is guided by well defined motives that weave through the different instruments in imitative, overlapping counterpoint. For the heart, the minor seconds, tritones and sevenths so prominent in the motives work together to express the feelings of apprehension and excitement commonly associated with exploring the unknown.
The piece begins low, with double bass and cellos presenting a simple, yet griping motive that rises through the different ranges of the instruments. As the opening develops, the motives move up and down in pitch and rhythmic intensity. In our journey we move forward, then hesitate, then move again. Wishart masterfully applies the contrapuntal texture, intervals and motives to produce waves of emotion, an undulating effect that carries the mind and heart along. The emotional expression is intense, strong and engaging.
At the mid-point, a new type of motive appears, using groups of sixteenth-notes, in contrast to the slower rhythmic pace heard from the beginning. The emotional expression shifts from apprehension to liveliness, almost excitement. Even though the music is rather playful, the persistence of half-steps in the motives reminds us we have not arrived yet, we have not left the unknown, and we are still traveling.
The emotional undulations return along with contrapuntal motives derived from those previously heard. The waves increase in intensity, and the music moves insistently on, driving toward a climax that occurs about two-thirds of the way through. At the climax point, the volume is at maximum, the counterpoint turns into dialogue between the winds and the strings, and then the rhythm expands as the music settles back down. Several more waves happen, and we are carried both down and then up, but not quite to another climax. It is like we have met the unknown, and it is changing us. It is not clear whether our fears and apprehensions were justified, but at the very end there is resolution. However, the resolution does not sound final; even though a final chord is sustained and tonally centered, it sounds open, as if we are open to more. We may rest from the journey, but we the effects of our encounter are still with us.
With the same skill found in great works by composers such as Stravinsky, Bartok and Schoenberg, Betty Wishart uses a superb contrapuntal technique to not only propel the musical journey, but also to create her own harmonic language that is the core of the emotional expression. In the great tradition of overlapping motives going all the way back to the Renaissance, the harmony created by her counterpoint sounds not coincidental, but intentional. The combination of the compositional skill and the highly effective emotional expression make Betty Wishart’s Concertante No.1 a journey that is challenging, revealing and very much worth experiencing.
Dr. Richard McKee
Ballade: A Tale After the Brothers Grimm
Ballade: A Tale after the Brothers Grimm, completed in 2006, is very much in keeping with my recent compositional exploration of the narrative, story-telling power of music. It was a strong interest in opera that led my purely instrumental music in this direction. The music of the great operatic literature, it seems, reaches well beyond the function of simply enhancing a drama on stage. Our perception is that this music somehow “becomes” the story that it tells, effectively taking it over, and expressing the drama in its own terms with a heightened sense of dramatic sweep and a good deal of emotional specificity. It is the music that essentially controls our experience as we are drawn into the dramatic world of a fine opera.
While it may be a bit problematic to speak of abstract orchestral music in such terms, music that exists apart from any explicit program or extra-musical reference does, I believe, have the capacity to carry on an independent narrative of its own sort, expressed using its own particular kind of syntax. In this spirit, the Ballade strives to create what might be called virtual, rather than concrete, narrative. We might even refer to it, after Mendelssohn, as “ an opera scene without words” whose personae appear as musical ideas. As in other forms of drama, interest comes as a result of the way these characters relate to one another in the context of an overall plot, the way they may be transformed by the nature of their interaction, and the larger intensity curve that emerges as part of the process.
Ballade: A Tale After the Brothers Grimm, a fairy tale piece, is concerned with three principal thematic ideas that explore a broad emotional range. The first, a lyrical and straightforward melody, is the heart of the piece. The second is governed by a rhythm, along with an interjection in the percussion, that eventually becomes its obsession, and that drives the story toward its culmination. However it is the third idea, initially the simplest and least assuming, that will appear in the greatest variety of guises, from it’s first innocent appearance in the woodwinds and harp, to an impassioned statement in the strings, to something a good deal more ominous when the brass takes it up, and that, finally, allows the piece to end in triumph. Ballade was written for and premiered by the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra under its music director, Fabio Mechetti.
What tale is told in this musical story? In the spirit of its literary models, it seems less entertaining to know for sure than it is to imagine. The imagination was where the magic of fairy tales sprang up for us when we first knew them, and it is there that, given a little nostalgia and inspiration, we may rekindle their fancy.
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