Year of the Dragon - slow movement

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by Matt Lawson, Apr 1, 2010.

  1. Matt Lawson

    Matt Lawson Member

    Is there a finer and more emotion-filled 'slow movement' in any test piece than the chorale section in Year of the Dragon? The pp -> ff transition is just sublime - and that suspension after the timp roll is just out of this world.

    Can't stop listening to this:
  2. agentorange

    agentorange Member

    No arguments here - simply gorgeous.
  3. andyp

    andyp Active Member

  4. James Yelland

    James Yelland Active Member

    There is more to music than test pieces. Have a listen to Bram Tovey's wonderful work Pictures in the Smoke. The dance band music recedes and we hear a slow middle section which perfectly conveys the loneliness and melancholy of the subject, Dorothy Parker, a fun-loving woman and great wit who went through several marriages without ever, the music seems to suggest, finding true love.

    Sorry to be so gooey, but the music really is very powerful. I recommend the work. It will raise goose pimples.
  5. Alyn James

    Alyn James Member

    Why don't we just call 'em pieces ?
  6. WoodenFlugel

    WoodenFlugel Moderator Staff Member

    My thoughts exactly. Its a shame we demean some of our best music by suggesting that they are only an exercise in jumping through musical hoops.
  7. trumpetmike

    trumpetmike Well-Known Member

    But when this is the reason why some of them are being written, surely that should be reflected in how we refer to them?
    Many test pieces do, to my ears, sound just like technical exercises designed to test a band and have very little to do with music for the audience. Just because certain players are capable of dazzling technical displays doesn't necessarily mean that those technical displays are to be included in every piece written.
    In case you are thinking that this is a complaint purely about brass band test pieces, I also have issues with many pieces of contemporary music written for some of the top soloists in the "classical" genre - just because someone is capable of multiphonics, playing at breakneck speeds and jumping all over the range of the instrument for 25 minutes, doesn't necessarily make that a great piece.

    Returning to the original post - the slow movement of Year of the Dragon is simply divine - in my opinion, one of the finest bits of music composed for brass band (not a fan of it at all in the wind band form, sorry). The whole piece is one of my favourite brass band works, but the second movement is an absolute gem.
  8. Alyn James

    Alyn James Member

    Yes, "music by numbers" - academic exercises in cleverness, cold, dry, detached. Mr. Sparkes's stuff doesn't just test us, it can engage us on an emotional level. Why?
  9. Alyn James

    Alyn James Member

    Oops :oops: - Sparke not's early....
  10. WoodenFlugel

    WoodenFlugel Moderator Staff Member

    By and large I agree with you, but I still think its a shame that some of our best original writing gets tagged as nothing more than a musical essay. It especially seems a shame when these pieces are not used at concerts because of the test-piece stigma they get. But maybe that's best left for another thread...

    Back to YotD - it is a terrific piece, though maybe not quite my favorite Philip Sparke (Harmony Music or Tallis beat it IMO) but he does seem to have a happy knack with the slow movements in particular - I can't say I've ever played a dodgy one. Though I've played many dodgy performances of them!
  11. Di B

    Di B Member

    I actually love all three movements and find something in each one. There are some beautiful chords in the first movement and I find the 3rd movement when played well exciting.

    Dependant on the draw I will certainly be trying to listen to some bands play it at the Spring Festival - hope all the bands (esp trom players) bring out the emotion and musicality needed to do this piece justice.
  12. Nuke

    Nuke Active Member

    Im loving the outer two movements.
    Up until I've actually played it on the day the second movement will always be nice to listen to pain in the ass to play lol. I'll work on some emotion for ya Di B.
    After the test pieces we have had so far this year though, hebredean suite and moorside, it is nice to be set a piece where there is actually a trombone part at all and not 28 bars rest to count. Hebredean especially fealt mostly tacet for trombone.
  13. barrytone

    barrytone Member

    I love that middle movement, one of the best bits of music in any test piece there is. First movement seems to go by very quickly, but then it will at 168 and it's just getting fingers/tongues round the semis in the last movement, it will definitely be the second movement that challenges bands and yes Rich, it is nice to have something to play after all the bars rest we counted in Hebridean Suite!
  14. Columbo

    Columbo Member

    There is also the Euph Solo in Le Roi D'ys. Beautiful, and a test for any Euph player. To quote Barrytone "one of the best bits of music". Test Piece snippets thread?
  15. Thirteen Ball

    Thirteen Ball Active Member

    Of course, this is just my opinion but....

    Though it's not my absolute favourite test piece ever: (I do love it dearly and it is right up there in my list, though it isn't quite top of the tree.)

    As a balance between:
    1) a test of technical dexterity dynamic range and mastery of every aspect of playing every instrument in the band...
    2) a test of musicality, and bringing every scrap of emotion out of some heartstoppingly fantastic music encompassing every concievable style and atriculation...
    3) a piece players love to play and audiences love to hear, that can communicate on as cerebral or as basic/emotional a level as the listener wishes....
    I do think it's the best test piece ever written.

    (PS: If I was pushed to choose, my favourite test piece ever, it'd be Tallis, because the whole piece is so lovely to play, beautiful to listen to.... and the BB part is the sort of thing we dream about!!!)
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2010
  16. thejazzter

    thejazzter New Member

    He uses proportionate levels of antecedence and consequence harmonically that just hit the right spots...
  17. Matt Lawson

    Matt Lawson Member

    What he said - but in layman's terms: "It sounds nice".

  18. Thirteen Ball

    Thirteen Ball Active Member

    As a great mate of mine had a habit of saying:

    "Not all th' 'ard music sounds like a sack o' spanners thrown dahn't stairs...."

    His way of saying a difficult test piece does not, by the same token, have to be unlistenable.
  19. katieeuph

    katieeuph Member

    I think it's amazing, and Nick Hudson's performance of the trombone solo when the Europeans were held in Cardiff is some of the finest playing I've ever been privileged to hear live. Paganini and Tallis both have their moments too. I know lots of people seem to dislike Royal Parks, but I find the 2nd Movement very powerful and moving, particularly given the subject matter.
  20. thejazzter

    thejazzter New Member

    Lol - that's right! Well.. I suppose what I was trying to say is that Sparke has a nack of building tension and releasing it just at the right moment to give you that spine tingle. YotD is not unlike the 2nd movt of Moorside if you had the pleasure of playing/ hearing it....;)

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