About this Recording
8.573342 - GRYC, S.M.: Concerto for Winds and Percussion / BOTTI, S.: Terra Cruda / TURNER, J.: Rumpelstilzchen (Raw Earth) (Hartt School Wind Ensemble, Adsit)

Raw Earth: New Music for Wind Band


Until fairly recently, wind bands and symphony orchestras were talked about as two entirely different types of media. The small number or complete absence of string instruments from the band was not, however, the most salient difference with the symphony orchestra. The social and artistic use of each was paramount in distinguishing the two. Bands were purveyors of popular, educational or military music and functioned on the bandstand, in the school or on the parade ground, whereas the proper milieu of the symphony orchestra was the concert stage. Igor Stravinsky’s Concerto for Piano and Wind Instruments is listed among his orchestral compositions because it fits the cultural definition of an orchestra rather than that of a band. Contemporary conductors of concert bands (now often called wind ensembles or wind symphonies) have enlarged the identity of bands so that they share much of the same artistic and cultural mission of the symphony orchestra. Indeed, college and professional wind ensembles and symphonic bands are orchestras of a type and offer composers a similarly broad canvas for their creativity along with the virtuosity that we expect from a professional symphony orchestra with strings. It is an exciting time for composers, as the new breed of band conductors seeks to create a core repertoire of classical compositions for wind orchestras through extensive commissioning of new works. Many of the composers commissioned have established their reputations without composing for the wind ensemble, so much of the newer wind music is less stereotypically “band music.”

Each of the three compositions on this recording reflects the new image of the wind ensemble. Each composer’s approach is unique to their own way of composing and their own artistic goals. All three are premiere recordings and The Hartt School Wind Ensemble was the lead commissioner in each.

Glen Adsit

Stephen Michael Gryc (b. 1949): Concerto for Winds and Percussion (2011)

In the past few years Glen Adsit has been persistent in his requests for another and larger work for wind ensemble. I promised that I would compose a large-scale wind piece after completing my violin concerto, an ambitious piece that occupied me for almost three years. Adsit put together a consortium of university wind ensembles which commissioned the piece, the largest that I have yet written for winds. For Glen Adsit’s patience and friendship I have dedicated the Concerto for Winds and Percussion to him.

It may seem odd to apply the term concerto to a work that does not feature a soloist. As in Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra, my work is meant to show the brilliant technique and wide range of expression that typifies solo concerto writing but with all the instrumentalists of the ensemble getting a turn to display their virtuosity either in solos or in groups. I gave my imagination free range in the composing of this work. The first movement, titled Deepening Fanfare, provides a brilliant opening in which fanfare figures appear in a grand and gradual descent from the highest instruments in the ensemble (piccolos, flutes, and sparkling percussion) through the middle voices (brass and saxophones) to the lowest (bassoons, tuba, and timpani). The fanfare dissolves into the second movement, Canticle, which follows it without pause. The motivating idea of the second movement is a chord that gradually fans out from a single pitch, first in the woodwind choir and, near the end, in the brass choir. The middle of the movement features woodwind arabesques over a broadly lyrical and chant-like melody in the brass. The third movement, Burlesque, begins with a satirical tune in the bassoons which is then passed to the tuba and an accompanying contrabassoon, the lowest of wind instruments. After developing a second melody (an oddly insistent one) the music suddenly speeds up with biting brass playing the first tune at breakneck speed. I was pleased to be able to feature the baritone saxophone and sleigh bells in this movement. The final movement, Celebration, begins with a slow and majestic brass fanfare that is a variation on the expanding chord idea from the second movement. The ensuing fast section obsessively holds its tempo and its concentration on a very few closely related motives until the work’s explosive ending.

Stephen Michael Gryc

Susan Botti (b. 1962): Terra Cruda (2011)

Terra Cruda (Ital.) translates literally as “Raw Earth.” It explores the innate behaviour of aggression, its natural aspects, repercussions, and transformations. Terra Cruda was commissioned by the National Wind Ensemble Consortium Group (NWECG).

Susan Botti

Jess Langston Turner (b. 1983): Rumpelstilzchen (2010)

Of all the fairy tales that I grew up hearing, “Rumpelstilzchen” is the one that most captured my imagination. The image of a creepy little gnome who has the magical power to spin straw into gold was fascinating to me. In fact, one of my first recognizable childhood drawings was a crudely rendered little man furiously whirling himself away into oblivion among multi-coloured scribbles. In addition, I also grew up attending concerts and hearing recordings of the university wind ensemble that my father directs. So it is only natural that I compose a major work for symphonic winds that takes its inspiration from the story of Rumpelstilzchen.

Rumpelstilzchen is divided into three movements, each depicting a different part of the story. The first movement, Spinning Straw into Gold, paints a portrait of Rumpelstilzchen clattering away at his spinning wheel. One can hear the wooden clicking and rattling of the spinning wheel, Rumpelstilzchen laughing to himself, as well as ominous undertones of his plan to steal the poor maiden’s firstborn son. After gradually working himself up into a frenzy, Rumpelstilzchen manages to compose himself enough to complete his task before vanishing into thin air.

The second movement, Night (The Maiden’s Lament) is a picture of the maiden’s grief upon realizing that she must give up her firstborn son to Rumpelstilzchen in exchange for his gold-spinning services. A long, plaintive melodic line is passed among various solo instruments, gradually culminating in a mournful chorale as the grief-stricken maiden sings her sorrow into the night.

The final movement, Rumpelstilzchen’s Furiant (Moto Perpetuo) describes Rumpelstilzchen’s dance of fury after his plot is foiled by the maiden’s successfully guessing his name. This final movement is a technical tour de force for the entire ensemble as it paints the picture of Rumpelstilzchen dancing and whirling faster and faster until he flies out of the maiden’s house on a cooking ladle, never to be seen again.

Jess Langston Turner

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