Regionals 2008: Championship Section Test Piece: Festival Music

Discussion in 'The Adjudicators' Comments' started by Di, Sep 30, 2007.

  1. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    Mozart was born in 1756 and Eric Ball wrote Festival Music for the 1956 Nationals ... that could be a starter for you! ;)
  2. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    Hah yes. Ought to have spotted that. Ta!
    Anything more specific?

    For example, the second movement quotes from a piece by Handel, the name of which escapes me for the moment ('Largo' from something or other. Denis Wright arranged it for band, I think.). From memory, none of Handel's dates tie up nicely with an anniversary in 1956. Any significance there, or did he just like the piece?
  3. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    - sleevenotes from the 2003 Dyke Festival Music CD attribute part of it (1st mvt.) to Mozart's Piano Sonata K457 in C minor. I can see some resemblance there. Listen to the MIDI here for your own judgement.
  4. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    It's quite a heavily edited version, but the resemblance must be there - because I was sat in the rehearsal thinking 'This sounds rather like that sonata that I can never quite get my fingers all the way around at speed' (i.e. K457). What I recall of the harmonies line up between the two.

    That's rather pleasing.
  5. geordiecolin

    geordiecolin Active Member

    Not heard or played Festival Music as of yet and accordingly will reserve judgement, however on the subject of Mozart and Eric Ball I feel that they are similar it at least one thing and that is that I feel that some of their writing is placed on a pedestal simply because of who composed it.

    It seems to me that there is an attitude that if something is written by either of these composers it is immediately labelled as being "very good". Don't get me wrong, both Mozart and Ball have composed some simply outstanding stuff but not all that they touched turned to gold in my opinion. I think that a good deal of work by both composers is overrated and is living off the name of its composer.

    A case in point would be Main Street, which in my opinion is particularly prosaic piece of music of limited imagination. If this had been composed by somebody else would it still be making relatively common appearances as a test piece?
  6. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    Let's separate Mozart and Ball out. Mozart was one of the greatest geniuses of his age. Ball was a strong craftsman who knew how to write music that suited the brass band. We're talking different scales of achievement here.

    Now let's look at them individually. Firstly, Herr Mozart. You're right, a fair bit of his published output does leave one a bit cold. But then you have to look at how long he lived - he died just short of his 36th birthday. Composers mature late - look at Elgar, Havergal Brian, Holst, indeed Eric Ball, to just restrict ourselves to English composers of the first half of the 20th century (there are many more examples). All wrote their most enduring work after their 36th birthdays.
    I used to think that Mozart was overrated - but then I realised that I had only been listening to his early works; the products of his childhood are typically what young pianists learn. These are lacking in emotional complexity, and it's a great shame for music that he died as he was starting to hint at what he could have achieved in a full life. Inspired by his discovery of the works of the greater master J.S. Bach, his Requiem stands comparison with almost anything else in Western music.
    The lesson I learned was to be more careful in choosing which works to judge Mozart by - after all, I wouldn't want people to judge me by many things I produced as a teenager or child.

    Secondly, Mr Ball. In contrast to Mozart, he lived a long life, from 1903 to 1989, and had all the chances he could have had to supply his crowning musical achievements. By writing in the styles that pleased bands, he always wrote in a pastiche of past music. Whether this is "artistically authentic" or not, to coin a rather pretentious phrase, is open for debate. Certainly, his writing displayed a conservatism that could never be attached to Mozart's work. He occasionally produced works that weren't up to his usual standard ('Main Street' is one, I'd agree - slightly duff concept, and not great execution either), but most contributed significantly to the developing brass band repertoire.

    I suppose the point I'm trying to make is that people don't tend to automatically assume that something WILL be good just because it comes from a generally-very-well-thought-of name, but that they assume that it is LIKELY to be so.
    A random work by Mozart is likely to be of "superior quality" when considered against all Western music.
    A random work by Ball is likely to be of "superior quality" when considered against all brass band music.
  7. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    - also have a look at Mozart's Fantasy in C Minor K475 for the last movement of Festival Music. Introductory bars and other fragments are used. Ronald Holz has done really good work with his research for the sleevenotes. He also mentions the Fantasia for Mechanical Organ, K608. It's the second movement that intrigues me! It's so operatic bound but from where? Beautifully balanced and written as well in my opinion.
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2007
  8. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    The shock ending of the 3rd movement mirrors a similar tactic in K475. I can't yet see the rest of the connection, though. I'll have to have a sit down with the score and piano book for comparison purposes. I don't know K608 at all, and can't easily spot the sheet music (for free) on the internet; is this one folded into the last movement too?

    The Handel piece that is the trombone chorale in the 2nd movement will come to me, but I can't place it just at the moment....
  9. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    - to tell you the truth, I've never questioned the piece before and any conductors in the past have never talked about it's origins in rehearsal. I've just accepted it for being a fantastic work that would sound great if scored for orchestra. I'll start listening to more Mozart to see if I can pick anything up that could have been an influence. The K608 I have is played by two pianos and will have a listen shortly.
  10. Anno Draconis

    Anno Draconis Well-Known Member

    Sarabande from the Suite for Harpsichord No.11 in d minor. Ish.

    I'm not entirely sure why, other than the strong Handelian influence on Ball generally - his early SA career featured much arranging and conducting of excerpts from oratorios and his wife, a gifted SA songster, was certainly familiar with many of the arias.
  11. Anno Draconis

    Anno Draconis Well-Known Member

    Couldn't agree more. Doesn't do to get too hyperbolic!

    Although there are some bits of Mozart I can't abide (like Eine Kleine Nachtmusic, every symphony below 20 and most of the early piano music), the highlights can sometimes seem painfully perfect. The Great C minor Mass, the Requiem, the last three operas, the last three symphonies - I'd swap everything I've ever written or am likely to write to have come up with 10 minutes of any of them. So often the word genius is used inappropriately - there's no other word for Mozart towards the end of his life.

    "Craftsman" is a much more appropriate word for Eric Ball. Music created with care, intelligence and occasional flashes of inspiration, some of which has stood the test of time and some of which hasn't - when was the last time you played (or heard) Akhnaton? Festival Music is one that has made the cut, and deservedly so.
  12. Bass Man

    Bass Man Active Member

    We ran it from top to bottom on Sunday night. What a cracking piece. Can't wait to get stuck into it!!!
  13. horn1

    horn1 Member

    I'm really enjoying this thread! I've not played or listened to Festival Music yet but am really looking forward to it now! I'm going to be investigating those Mozart and Handel pieces too :)
  14. Sandy Smith

    Sandy Smith Member

    Excellent :clap:
  15. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

  16. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    ... and if you want to hear a MIDI organ transcription of the K608, you can find it linked below ...

    p.s., also has the the other two listed above as MIDI as well!
  17. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    Good work! The first bar of K475 is the first two bars of the last movement, rhythmically altered.
  18. hicks

    hicks Member

    I agree. With the right balance and co-ordination it sounds sublime. The second movement is very delicate. In fact I like the whole piece really, and consider it one of the most enjoyable test pieces I've played.
  19. slider

    slider Member

    Circumnavigation has technically far more demanding trombone parts. Played Festival Music for the first time last night and think that all bands will play the piece tunefully, competently and with a good level of musicianship.
    Adjudication will be interesting as I don't foresee many bands / sections falling apart, going AWOL etc. in the piece. Could be some unexpected results.
  20. Highams

    Highams Member

    For me, Eric Ball's finest work.

    If you want to hear a really stylish performance, dig out the 1968 CWS Manchester LP (Fanfare & Soliloquy) under Alex Mortimer, with Derek Garside, Robert Richards (euph) and a young Brian Evans on sop.


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