About this Recording
8.572242 - Wind Band Music - HINDEMITH, P. / HOLST, G. / GRAINGER, P. / SCHWANTNER, J. (Trendsetters) (Peabody Conservatory Wind Ensemble, H.D. Parker)

Trendsetters: Music for Wind Band


Paul Hindemith (1895–1963): Symphony in B flat

The Symphony in B flat for Concert Band by Paul Hindemith was composed at the request of Lt Col Hugh Curry, leader of the United States Army Band, and had its première in Washington, D.C. on 5th April, 1951, with the composer conducting. The three-movement symphony shows Hindemith’s great contrapuntal skill, and the organized logic of his thematic material. His melodies develop ever-expanding lines, and his skill in the organization and utilization of complex rhythmic variation adds spice and zest to the strength of his melodies. The first movement is in sonata allegro form in three sections, with the recapitulation economically utilizing both themes together in strong counterpoint. The second and third movements develop and expand their thematic material in some of the most memorable contrapuntal writing for winds. The second movement opens with an imitative duet between alto saxophone and cornet, accompanied by a repeated chord figure. The duet theme, along with thematic material from the opening movement, provides the basic material for the remainder of the movement. The closing section of the third movement utilizes the combined themes while the woodwinds amplify the incessant chattering of the first movement. The brass and percussion adamantly declare a halt with a powerful final cadence. The symphony rivals any orchestra composition in length, breadth and content, and served to convince other first-rank composers, including Giannini, Persichetti, Creston and Hovahness, that the band is a legitimate medium for serious music.

Gustav Holst (1874–1934): First Suite in E flat

British composers have produced several exceptionally fine works for the concert band. Of all these, the First Suite in E flat by Gustav Holst is generally regarded as the cornerstone. Written in 1909, it is one of the few band originals that have been transcribed for symphony orchestra. It was given its first known public performance by the Royal Military School of Music Band, conducted by D. W. Jones at Kneller Hall in 1920. Various instruments repeat the opening theme of the Chaconne incessantly as others weave varied filigrees about the ground theme. In the middle of the first movement, the principal theme is inverted and the tonality changes to minor for a few repetitions. The Intermezzo is based on a variation of the Chaconne theme, presented first in an agitated style, then in a cantabile mood, the two styles alternating throughout the movement. The two themes of the March, one dynamic and the other lyric, are also taken from the Chaconne theme. The first is something of an inversion and is played in a marcato style by the upper brasses, the second, a more flowing rendition of the theme, now ‘right-side-up’, is played by the woodwinds and lower brasses. Eventually, the two are combined in a thrilling counterpoint leading to the coda.

Although Holst’s daughter, Imogen (a gifted musician and author), was critical of some of his compositions, she writes that “The whole suite is superbly written for military band…It must have been a startling change from the usual operatic selections…In spite of its original approach, the Suite never breaks away from the essential traditions of the band, and the March is the sort of music that is beloved of bombardons (basses) and euphoniums.” The “inevitable meno mosso,” was written “with the assurance of an experienced bandsman who knows exactly what the other players are going to enjoy.”

Joseph Schwantner (b. 1943): …and the mountains rising nowhere

…and the mountains rising nowhere by Joseph Schwantner came out of the composer’s experience of writing for professional chamber groups. The work was dedicated to Carol Adler and to the performers of the première, the Eastman Wind Ensemble, conducted by Donald Hunsberger. Although not specifically programmatic, the evocative imagery of the following poem by Carol Adler provided inspiration for the composition.

arioso bells
an afternoon sun blanked by rain
and the mountains rising nowhere
the sound returns
the sound and the silence chimes

In addition to a large group of winds (though only two clarinets), the score calls for amplified contrabass and solo piano as well as 46 different percussion instruments played by six players. Tuned water goblets, whistling and singing help to create a unique sonic tapestry.

Percy Aldridge Grainger (1882–1961): Lincolnshire Posy

Percy Aldridge Grainger’s extensive compositional output consists mainly of original compositions and folk-music settings. Lincolnshire Posy (1937) is considered the pinnacle of his folk-music settings. While he wrote for practically every medium, Grainger’s first love was the wind band. In his program notes on Lincolnshire Posy he writes, “Why this cold-shouldering of the wind band by most composers? Is the wind band—with its varied assortments of reeds, its complete saxophone family that is found nowhere else, its army of brass—not the equal of any medium ever conceived? As a vehicle of deeply emotional expression it seems to me unrivalled.” [Note 1] In response to this, Grainger conceived and scored Lincolnshire directly for the wind band with five of the six movements found in no other finished form. [Note 2] Unlike composers who used folk-songs as basis for their own compositions, Grainger tried to match the original intent, the underlying ethos, of each folk song: Indeed, each [movement] is intended to be a kind of musical portrait of the singer who sang its underlying melody—a musical portrait of the singer’s personality no less than of his habits of song—his regular or irregular wonts [sic] of rhythm, his preference for gaunt or ornately arabesqued [sic] delivery, his contrasts of legato and staccato, his tendency towards breadth or delicacy of tone. [Note 3]

In accord with Grainger’s intent, produced below are small fragments of the lyrics for each of the six movements.

1. Lisbon (Verses 1, 2 of 7)

’Twas on a Monday morning, all in the month of May;
Our ship she weighed her anchor, all for to sail away;
The wind did from the southwest blow,
for Lisbon we were bound,
The hills and dales were covered,
with pretty young girls around.

I wrote a letter to Nancy, for her to understand
That I should have to leave her, unto some foreign land,
She said, My dearest William,
these words will break my heart,
Oh let us married be tonight, sweet Willie,
before you start.

2. Horkstow Grange (Verse 1 of 3 and Chorus)

In Horkstow Grange there lives and old miser,
you all do know him as I’ve heard tell,
It was him and his man that we called John Bowlin’,
they fell out one market day.

Pity them what see him suffer,
pity poor old Steeleye Span,
John Bowlin’s deeds they will be remembered,
Bowlin’s deeds at Horkstow Grange.

3. Rufford Park Poachers (Verse 1 of 9 and Chorus)

A buck or doe, believe it so, a pheasant or a hare
Were sent on earth for every man quite equally to share.
So poacher bold, as I unfold, keep up your gallant heart,
And think about those poachers bold,
that night in Rufford Park.

4. The Brisk Young Sailor (Verses 1, 2 of 9)

A fair maid walking all in her garden,
a brisk young sailor she chanced to spy,
He stepped up to her thinking to woo her, cried thus:
Fair maid, can you fancy I?

You seem to be some man of honour,
some man of honour you seem to be,
I am a poor and lowly maiden,
not fitting, sir, your servant for to be.

5. Lord Melbourne (Verse 1 of 5)

I am an Englishman to my birth,
Lord Melbourne is my name;
In Devonshire I first drew breath,
that place of noble fame.
I was beloved by all my men,
by kings and princes likewise.
I never failed in anything, but won great victories.

6. The Lost Lady Found (Verses 1, 4 of 9)

’Twas down in yon valley a fair maid did dwell,
She lived with her uncle, they all knew full well,
’Twas down in yon valley where violets grew gay,

Three gypsies betrayed her and stole her away.
There was a young squire that loved her so,
Oft times to the schoolhouse together they did go,
I’m afraid she’s been murdered, so great is my fear,
If I’d wings like a dove, I would fly to my dear.

Trent Hollinger


[1] Percy Aldridge Grainger, “Program-Note on ‘Lincolnshire Posy’” in Lincolnshire Posy (Cleveland: Ludwig Music, 1987), 75.
[2] The first movement, “Lisbon,” was originally scored for woodwind quintet in 1931.
[3] Grainger, 75.

Close the window