Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by hellraiser, Sep 11, 2004.

  1. hellraiser

    hellraiser Member

    When an orchestral piece gets arranged for brass band, should the band aim to replicate the sounds of the instruments of an orchestra or should the band play it as a brass band piece?

    From what I recall bands that play pieces like a traditional brass band would seem to do better in brass band contests than those who get an orchestral conductor in to make the band play it more like an orchestra would.

    I'm predicting that people will say that it depends who's in the box. You'd expect a brass band veteran to prefer a brass bandy performance but someone from an orchestral background would maybe prefer a more orchestral sounding approach.

    Personally I think the orchestral approach has a strong case because if the conductor had written it for an orchestra with all the different sounds of the orchestral instruments in mind then the brass bands should look to try and fulfill the original styles and sounds of what the conductor has in mind.
    Last edited: Sep 11, 2004
  2. ronnie_the_lizard

    ronnie_the_lizard Active Member

    It obviously depends very much on the piece and who has done the arrangement, but in general I would say the opposite - a brass band is NEVER going to replicate the sound of a symphony orchestra and is likely to fall sadly short of either mark if it tries.

    A good arranger will have chosen a piece that fits the Brass style (Triumphant or lyrical or both) in the first place (hence why Berlioz, Tchaikovsky and Wagner work so much better than, for example, Mozart) and then will adapt the piece so that it works with the traditional brass band sound, so that at least Brass Band enthusiasts will enjoy it (orchestral types will probably always consider it an abomination, whatever you do).

    >>if the conductor had written it for an orchestra with all the different
    >>sounds of the orchestral instruments in mind
    If you follow that one far enough, the only logical answer is not to shamelessly b*st*rdise orchestral masterpieces in the first place :rolleyes: ;-) .
    Last edited: Sep 11, 2004
  3. hellraiser

    hellraiser Member

    I don't agree with the thoughts in the reply. Following your logic brass bands should avoid playing unsuitable pieces from conductors like Mozart and just stick to contest music or resurgam. I think that's ridiculous. It's up to brass bands to adapt their style to perform whatever piece sits on the stand.

    As an example, some people could be asked to not play certain bits with vibrato in order to more closely match the sound of the original orchestral instrument.

    TIMBONE Active Member

    Having arranged both orchestral and piano music for brass band and wind band, I will give my own personal approach to this subject. If I arrange orchestral music, (eg, "Three Pieces from Czechoslovakia" by Janacek), or a piano piece, (eg "A Rachmaninoff Prelude"), for brass band, it is because I feel that the MUSIC ITSELF will work well in a different medium. By 'arranging' the music, I am making an orchestral or piano piece into a brass band piece. I must add a point here, an 'arrangement' and a 'trancription' are two different things. The championship test piece for the 2005 areas, an arrangement of "Rienzi" by Wagner, was referred to as a transcription in another thread. An example of what a transcription is would be to transcribe a flute solo for clarinet, or a song for Bb Cornet, (basically changing the key and a few minor editions). It is not possible to actually transcribe an orchestral piece for brass band, it has to be arranged - the original music itself has to be 're-created' to becaome a brass band piece. An arranger has to use a large amount of skill to transform say a fantastic orchestral overture by Wagner into brass band music.
  5. Brian Bowen

    Brian Bowen Active Member

    To be a bit pedantic, according to the Concise Oxford Dictionary of Music one meaning of transcription is an "arrangement of music composition for a performing medium other than the original or for same medium in more elaborate style." So unless the "Rienzi" overture has been modified, e.g., with new music added from another source, I think "transcribed" is possible.
  6. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    I used 'transcription' in the sense that Brian Bowen has clearly stated, but I do have to agree with Tim that any adaptation (my favourite term) from one medium to another has to be both re-built and re-created from the source's basic structures to try and give justice to the composer's original intentions. I don't think anyone would claim that they could fully emulate an orchestral score, but they would try to represent it as best as they can, so it can be recognised in the new setting of instruments to an audience. I would think that applies to big-band, rock, fusion, popular music etc. as well.
    Last edited: Sep 12, 2004
  7. hellraiser

    hellraiser Member

    I intended this discussion to centre more around how the band should approach the piece i.e. look to emulate the sounds used in the original orchestral piece or treat it as a brass band piece in its own right. For example would the vibs used be consistent with the instruments of the orchestra?
  8. Mikey Boy

    Mikey Boy New Member

    The question is quite valid, but I get the feeling that we are trying to emulate a copy in the first place.

    An composer has a vision of what he wants to re-create in the audience's mind when he does the original composition. The job of de-syphering the code and getting it over to the audience is in the hands of the Musical Director and the Orchestra.

    I believe that when a transcription or arranegement is done, the arranger has to try and emulate the thought processes of the Composer to get as close to the original audience result as he can, given the limits of the particular instruments in range and texture.

    With this in mind, I should say that the piece has to be interpreted against the original theme eg Peer Gynt Suite, where the movements trt to convey scenic and emotional moods, not to try and emulate exactly the orchestral sounds.

    A brass band has a unique blend of sounds which can be enhanced by a good Musical director to generate a tear in a glass eye, if needed. We shouldn't strive to emulate another type of ensemble, I do not believe it is neccessary.

    Mikey Boy
    B Flat
  9. Brian Bowen

    Brian Bowen Active Member

    I think a brass band performance should be judged on it’s faithfulness to the character of the original music, not on how close it comes in matching the original sounds. The arranger’s skill is very much on trial here, too. Some arrangers may attempt to recreate the sounds made by instruments in the orchestra while others will deliberately look for other creative possibilities. In the case of the newer arrangement of “Rienzi”, I cannot comment having not seen the score. (Was it arranged as a test piece or a concert piece?)

    I suspect many listeners at contests (maybe some adjudicators) will be listening for what we might call typical brass band technique that shows off various facets of brass playing; others will be listening with, dare I say, more musical ears. Is the performance geared to showing off the band or the music? In the hands of some conductors and bands, I think the interpretation may be different for a contest than for a concert.

    You tell me what most people's priorities are at a contest. :-?
  10. hellraiser

    hellraiser Member

    I have only one answer to that one: to win the contest.

    Very much like pro sports teams look to 'play the ref' it seems this is true for band contests and perhaps a conductor will alter the interpretation of this kind of piece depending who's in the box. If you play the percentages then you will alter your interpretation depending on who you've got in the box - an orchestral person or a brass band purist.

    Say you have a piece arranged for brass band with a horn solo that used to be on french horn in the orchestral piece. Should you get the horn player to play the usual vibby style or play it more like the style of a french horn? I'm suggesting that the answer to this question would depend on who you have in the box.

    TIMBONE Active Member

    Point taken Brian, (the true definition of 'transcribe'), I do go off 'half cock' sometimes, trying to get a point across without making sure that I have the facts right. I just feel that an arranger is being 'short changed' sometimes, when I get the distinct impression that some people, (only some), think that transcribing from orchestra to band is just a technical exercise.

    Sorry if I led the discussion off topic a little "hellraiser", however, my main point was to do with the point you raised. (At least I moved the topic up the page a bit!).

    TIMBONE Active Member

    I think that the 'orchestral' brass sound is accepted these days as part of the development of the modern brass band. I believe that this started a few decades ago. As far as instruments go, one example was brass bands beginning to use the larger bore 'orchestral' tenor trombone. Another thing which had a big influence was the emergence of the 'orchestral' brass ensemble, starting with the popular and famous "Philip Jones Brass Ensemble". Things like this also began to make inroads into the mainstram of serious and not so serious music, where musicians who had previously thought of brass bands as a strange phenomenon, began to accept them as a genuine form of musical ensemble.

    Your comment regarding vibrato is both topical and amusing. Topical, because one of these developments has been for vibrato to become an option rather that a requirement in brass bands Amusing, because the tradition in some European places, Russia in particular, is for French Horns to use vibrato. I have heard Russian orchestras where, on first impression, the French Horn sounds like a Euphonium!!!
  13. jpbray

    jpbray Member

    In reading the comments with respect to an arranged piece of existing classical music, it would appear doubt could be cast regarding the interpretation of such a piece and what is expected, since preconceptions will undoubtedly exist.

    Would it be an encumbrance of the arranger to remain faithful to the original pathos of the piece? Or as I expect the arranger will want to have his/her own interpretation on the piece producing different tonal qualities and variations. Which once again begs the question should a championship test piece be an original work; where no one can have any preconceived ideas.
  14. Dave Payn

    Dave Payn Active Member

    Should it sound like an orchestra or brass band?

    Well, how about a brass orchestra?

    Doesn't matter whether it's used for a test or played in a concert. This to me, goes back a bit to the 'vibrato' debate. Something like Rienzi (to refer to both the original and the existing brass band arrangement by Haydn Johns - let's just call it arrangement for consistency's sake if nothing else) has its lyrical sections but the numerous fanfare passages would sound silly with vibrato applied, to my ears.

    In brass terms, however: if anybody's got the Canadian Brass/Bayreuth FO Brass Wagner CD with Rienzi on it, I would use that, style wise, as my initial model.
  15. jpbray

    jpbray Member

    Although it moves away from the original thread, to reply to your question Dave, ... how about a brass orchestra?

    Why not.

    However I have no problems with "Brass Band", but what is in a name. Nevertheless for the sake of modernity I think the label of brass band in this day and age detracts from the musical abilty and dedication of the bands, players & MD's.
  16. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    ... how about placing in this thread another scenario? Brass band original works rewritten for wind or fanfare bands? How would you feel if Harrison's Dream, Montage, Paganini Variations, Year Of The Dragon, Journey Into Freedom, Comedy Overture, Land Of The White Cloud and many more scored for other wind set-ups? (Yes,.... these pieces mentioned have been performed and recorded by ensembles other than brass band... and many to great effect!). Do they emulate brass bands, or have the works been written for those specific groups of instruments in mind to perform? How do clarinets and saxes view their role with respect to vibrato? Is there a respected standard brass band vibrato style? I maintain that the original concepts of the composer must be sustained and executed by whoever is playing the work. Whether the skills of the arranger matches that is another matter. I've said before that all the arranger can do is best represent the original detail and ideas. If the medium he is adapting to has limitations compared to the original scored instrumentation, he must accomodate that and compromise to some degree.

    re:Canadian Brass recording of Rienzi..... this version actually is not the full overture, but an abridged version.
  17. Dave Payn

    Dave Payn Active Member

    I know, but the style on that recording is how I'd approach rehearsing a band performance of it.
  18. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    Sorry Dave, I just went into anorak-mode for Rienzi again (....still looking out for your soapbox!).

    A point relevant in mind to my last post is the wind band version of Year Of The Dragon. The trombone solo in the original has been rewritten for sax in the 2nd movement (interlude). The style of the original solo has been debated as blues vs. symphonic style vs. trad. brass band style over the years but what does the poor sax soloist do for interpretation? And of the last movement, regardless of score, it didn't do any harm Howard Snell increasing the set tempo when he competed with it. Did Philip Sparke think that this was against his original design or did he accept that it might have enhanced the movement? (the metronome marks have not been changed since then in the published score). Shame it didn't work for YBS and Blitz in 1998 European Championships (... but that is my own personal choice and taste. I liked his interpretation even if it went against printed tempo markngs).
  19. Dave Payn

    Dave Payn Active Member

    No need to apologise! ;-) I didn't actually twig it was an abridged version until I subsequently heard the orchestral version and Haydn Johns' brass band arrangement!

    As for the 'soapbox' wait.. so am I! :)
  20. PeterBale

    PeterBale Moderator Staff Member

    I think there will always be never-ending arguments when it comes to transferring a work from one medium to another. No matter how skilful the arranger/transcriber, the second version is bound to be different, even though those differences may be subtle. I think sometimes we can get too caught up in arguments over where the moral high ground lies when it comes to transcriptions, tending to forget that this is not a new situation.

    Bach, for example, was ever ready to rearrange his own music, or somebody else's, to met a new commission or satisfy the demand for a new piece. In that transformation the character of the music sometimes changes little, but often the end result is totally different - even the Dm toccata & fugue is now widely believed to have originated as a piece for solo violin!

    The purpose for the new arrangement may well be specific: in the past, brass and military bands would often be the means whereby the latest compositions from Europe would reach the ordinary man in the street - no radio or recordings around in those days, and Schoenberg was amongst those who devised small-scale reductions of a wide range of music for that purpose. There have also been many instances where arrangements have been done just so that particular performers may be able to play music intended for other instruments, quite apart from those particularly intended for display purposes - by no means limited to brass bands here: just think of the various virtuoso piano arrangements from Liszt, Horowitz etc.

    As to interpretation, I think that should at least be influenced by what would be expected of the original version, even if that may need to be tempered by the needs, limitations and advantages of modern brass instruments. Mozart should not be tackled as if were Sousa, and the question of vibrato will be but one aspect of this: how many performances are spoilt by the use of an aggressive attack on brass that is quite alien to the nature of the music?

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