Composers 'lost' to brass bands

Discussion in 'Off-Topic Chat' started by Statto, Mar 14, 2012.

  1. Statto

    Statto Member

    An interesting debate on another thread here about 'innovative' test pieces got me thinking of which 'great' composers we would have loved to have composed for brass band, test piece or otherwise?

    The excellent site,, lists 297 'notable' composers and I thought I would pull from this list those British composers that lived at some stage during the last (and this) century, i.e. they were active during the brass band 'era', and hence could have (or did:)) compose for bands. This is the list, together with year of death:

    Sir Malcolm Arnold - 2006
    Sir Arnold Bax - 1953
    Sir Harrison Birtwistle (still with us:))
    Frank Bridge - 1941
    Benjamin Britten - 1976
    Frederick Delius - 1934
    Sir Edward Elgar - 1934
    Gustav Holst - 1934
    Sir Arthur Sullivan - 1900
    Sir Michael Tippett - 1998
    Ralph Vaughan Williams - 1958
    William Walton - 1983
    Peter Warlock - 1930

    Very little repertoire from this short-list unfortunately, with perhaps Moorside Suite being the only truly great work. (Severn Suite and Variations 'good' but not 'great'?)

    Having recently heard a live performance of Britten's Four Sea Interludes, we definitely lost out by him not composing for bands. Wonder if he was ever asked?

    Of all the so-called 'great' composers (alive after 1900), which would you wish to have composed (or composed more) for band? Doesn't need to be from the list above.

    Are there any composers alive today that will be thought of as 'great' in 50-100 years, that could be persuaded to compose for bands?

    He doesn't fit the criteria (although he did survive beyond the first British Open!), but clearly Berlioz could have written some cracking test pieces! One of my own favourite 'lost' composers is undoubtedly Shostakovich. Lots of excellent arrangements of his compositions though.:)

  2. Accidental

    Accidental Supporting Member

    Its a bit disappointing that Holst and Vaughan Williams didn't do more for brass band, but the other British 'classical' composers from the last century don't really interest me - a lot of their music is just a bit wet for my taste! And I'm too ignorant about our contemporary composers to answer the other half of your question....

    Not exactly patriotic (or answering your original question, sorry!) but I've always thought it was a shame Saint-Saens and Berlioz weren't around a few decades later and writing for brass bands, and I think Bernstein could have been interesting.
  3. cornyandy

    cornyandy Member

    I always think that much of the score for Hugh the Drover (Vaughan Williams) would make fantastic band music, however I'm not sure about the Copyright issue, I know that the RVW society were very strict about our not even videoing it for an archive when I was in it
  4. ibrox

    ibrox Member

    Someone who certainly knows how to write for brass but has never, to my knowledge, composed for brass band is John Williams. Now that would be interesting. A couple of others who were around until the turn of the 20th century were Bruckner and Mahler, though both would probably have struggled to write a piece 15-20 minutes in length!
  5. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    Away from Britain, it would have been wonderful to see a work by Shostakovich (1906-1975 as I recall) for band. I think the medium and the writer would have appreciated each other greatly.
  6. cornyandy

    cornyandy Member

    I wonder if Leonarnd Bernstien and Aaron Copeland would have been interesting contributors to the Brass Band Cannon
  7. trumpetmike

    trumpetmike Active Member

    Am I the only one who is quite pleased that Birtwistle has never ventured into the brass band world?
    It is bad enough we have to put up with him in the orchestral world
  8. tubadaz

    tubadaz Member

    You mean apart from Grimethorpe Aria (1973) & Salford Toccata (1989)?


  9. Dave Payn

    Dave Payn Active Member

    Herbert Howells should be in there - Pageantry
  10. trumpetmike

    trumpetmike Active Member

    Fair point, maybe if he had limited himself to just two orchestral pieces (and stopped in 1989) he might be more pleasant to the ears, lol
  11. cornyandy

    cornyandy Member

    Let's keep Einaudi away from brass bands until he stops writing glorified finger exercises. I find his music a cure for insomnia. I think there are a few arrangements of his music but not for me
  12. James Yelland

    James Yelland Active Member

    The list is too long to write. But sticking to UK composers alone, we have nothing from Benjamin Britten, nothing from Mark-Anthony Turnage (who has written several effective pieces for orchestral brass) - and although we flatter ourselves that Elgar, Vaughan Williams and Holst wrote music for the medium, the fact remains that they only contributed 4 (or possibly 5) pieces between them, and some of those were of variable quality.
  13. James Yelland

    James Yelland Active Member

    I have heard a little rumour that there might be an announcement about a new work by Birtwistle in the near this space.
  14. James Yelland

    James Yelland Active Member

    I think you might be interested in this Youtube video which was flagged up in an article in BBW magazine. I'm not quite certain what point the composer is trying to make, but it makes for entertaining viewing (and listening), and will, I suspect, pander to your prejudice!
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2012
  15. EbEwan

    EbEwan Member

    What about Edvard Grieg (died 1907)? Not sure when brass banding started in Norway but as the Band Federation was founded in 1918 he might just make it.
  16. Anno Draconis

    Anno Draconis Well-Known Member

    Paul Hindemith and Jean Sibelius would have had something interesting to contribute, I think. I'd also love to see what James MacMillan or Sir Peter Maxwell Davies could do with a substantial brass band commission.
  17. Rapier

    Rapier Supporting Member

    I'd like Karl Jenkins to do something just for brass bands. (Although Dyke playing the Armed Man will do instead).
  18. James Yelland

    James Yelland Active Member

    You only have a year or so (I think) to wait for the piece that Dyke commissioned from MacMillan, although there is already a piece called Jubel (if I remember correctly) which he wrote for his son's school band. Desford played it at the RNCM a couple of years ago, although I wouldn't describe it as 'substantial'.

    Max has written a piece for band with children's choir, The Peatcutters, which I would say IS substantial - but needless to say, it hardly ever gets performed.
  19. John Brooks

    John Brooks Well-Known Member

    Sir Arthur Bliss? Also, from the States Charles Ives might have been interesting.
  20. Thirteen Ball

    Thirteen Ball Active Member

    Would have loved to have heard more genuine band music from Elgar. His style would have leant itself very well to band pieces, and some of his partsongs move across from choir to brass with amazing facility.

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