Forgotten test pieces

Jan H

Moderator
Staff member
Charmed said:
Never heard of the others though! :biggrin:
Blackfriars was the set piece here in Belgium for the 1st section last year.
Selected by Mr. Read (and his two colleagues). So apparantly not everyone has forgotten it :) The bands weren't too happy about it though ("too old-fashioned" - the year before they had The Essence of Time, this year it'll be Spectrum...)
 

nickjones

Active Member
HUDDSBASSBONE said:
Couldn't agree more with you on that one. Triumphant Rhapsody is an absolute corker. Love playing it, and audinences seem to enjoy hearing it (People who choose the test pieces, pay heed...)

Another one I also like, but I'm not sure where or when its been used or, even if it is classed as a test piece is Endeavour. Can't remember the composer but I remember having a recording on tape years back of a massed band playing it at a concert. Absolutely FAB! Never played it, but would love to get my teeth into what sounds to be a decent bass trombone part.
I think Mr Sparke's Endevour was last used as the Pontins Qualifier in 1993 ( when pontins had area qualifiers) brilliant piece...and on the Yorkshire Imps 1991 cd of the same name..
 
Anno Draconis said:
Also used at the Open in 87/88ish I think? I'm not especially keen on it, nor Lorenzo which was exhumed for Pontins last year - let's not hear that turgid old potboiler again. Put it in the same skip as Scena Sinfonica, Life Divine, Scena Sinfonica and Judges of the flippin' Secret Court. Oh, and James Cook, and Entertainments.
i would love to know why people enjoy dismissing these sorts of pieces so much. they are almost universally more tuneful than anything we've had recently at any major contest, are obviously difficult to play if set at the right level, and in at least some cases were written by composers with better reputations than any alive today could possibly hope for (like Berlioz, Vinter, etc. also I recall Vaughan-Williams coming in for a bit of flak).
what exactly is the problem with them?
 

Anno Draconis

Well-Known Member
starperformer said:
what exactly is the problem with them?
Well principally I just don't like them - that's music for ya, it's a subjective thing. And mostly it's individual pieces I dislike, not the composer's entire output. However, if you want specific reasons (and these are again just my personal opinion:

Scena Sinfonica: Dull and formulaic, symptomatic of the torpor that band music was in the 50s and 60s. I don't like any of Henry Geehl's music for the same reasons.

Life Divine: Like the above, written to a formula. I find it dull and repetitive, pompous and overblown. Similar in may ways to Liszt's tone poems which also give me the heeby-jeebies, I can find little of musical value in it. Personally I would say exactly the same about Lorenzo

Judges: A duff arrangement of one of Berlioz's worst overtures. In contrast, the band arrangments of Le Corsaire or Carnival Romaine are both great, in terms of the original music and quality of transcription.

James Cook Circumnavigator: Vinter was grievously hurt by the negative reaction to Spectrum and in this, his last band work, he made a conscious effort to tone down his harmonic language. The result is harmonically dull and predictable, with little of the colourful brilliance of Spectrum. The march at the end is just odd, with no real relevance to the rest of the piece.

Entertainments: Just don't like it. It doesn't work for me as a band transcription - it was originally a string piece. The Elegy is nice, I suppose, but it doesn't do anything for me.

I'm a huge fan of Vaughan Williams (especially Job and the symphonies), but I'm not convinced that the Variations represents his finest hour. And as far as reputations are concerned I'm not convinced that Vinter's reputation extends far beyond brass bands, whereas contemporary writers like Pickard, Wilby etc. are well known in other fields.

I don't have a problem with "old" music - Moorside Suite was in my top ten, and Pageantry just missed it - as long as it's good.
 

Bayerd

Active Member
Anno Draconis said:
Life Divine: Like the above, written to a formula. I find it dull and repetitive, pompous and overblown. Similar in may ways to Liszt's tone poems which also give me the heeby-jeebies, I can find little of musical value in it. Personally I would say exactly the same about Lorenzo
Surely the fact it's overblown is a problem with the band not the music?
 

Anno Draconis

Well-Known Member
Bayerd said:
Surely the fact it's overblown is a problem with the band not the music?
Not meant in a performance sense - sorry, I should have been clearer. What I meant was I find the piece excessive, over the top. It tries too hard to achieve aural effect without actually having much to say musically.

I could level the same criticism at a number of recent test-pieces, too. Journey to the Centre of the Earth has very clever effects and interesting sounds in it but to me, doesn't have much music in it. It sums up Beecham's aphorism that the English "don't really like music, but they adore the sound it makes" (paraphrased 'cos I can't remember his exact words!).
 

GJG

Well-Known Member
Anno Draconis said:
...Beecham's aphorism that the English "don't really like music, but they adore the sound it makes" (paraphrased 'cos I can't remember his exact words!).
Actually, I don't have the exact quote to hand either, but I seem to recall he said: " ... the noise it makes." - which is even more appropriate, in a way.;)
 
Anno Draconis said:
It tries too hard to achieve aural effect without actually having much to say musically.
well that immediately puts it right on a par with the majority of modern testpieces - "journey to the centre of the earth" is far from being the only one, it is the rule not the exception. the only difference is that the fashionable effects nowadays have moved on and are now far more superficial. life divine requires a good solid band sound to a much greater extent - maybe that's what bands worry about?
 

Anno Draconis

Well-Known Member
starperformer said:
life divine requires a good solid band sound to a much greater extent - maybe that's what bands worry about?
Quite possibly. Ironically I wouldn't dispute LD's suitability as a test piece, precisely because it needs a good solid sound, good technique, sound intonation and ensemble, etc., etc. JTTCOFE similarly makes a good test, albeit targeted at the strengths of a specific band. I'm just not convinced there's much music in either of them.

But of course the debate about the musical content of test-pieces isn't part of this topic. Sorry to wander...:D
 

andywooler

Supporting Member
I would add Chromascope, Paul Petterson - I like it myself but have never met anyone else who does which is a shame.

I last heard it at the Scaba contest in the days when it was held in the Brighton Dome - Alder Valley played it (as a bet??)
 

Anno Draconis

Well-Known Member
andywooler said:
I would add Chromascope, Paul Petterson - I like it myself but have never met anyone else who does which is a shame.
[*raises hand) I do. Would make a good 1st section area piece! Patterson wrote a follow-up called Cataclysm (I think) which is even more obscure.
 

KMJ Recordings

Supporting Member
andywooler said:
I would add Chromascope, Paul Petterson - I like it myself but have never met anyone else who does which is a shame.

I last heard it at the Scaba contest in the days when it was held in the Brighton Dome - Alder Valley played it (as a bet??)
Apart from me.

I'm sure we've been here before? :confused:
 

KMJ Recordings

Supporting Member
Anno Draconis said:
[*raises hand) I do. Would make a good 1st section area piece! Patterson wrote a follow-up called Cataclysm (I think) which is even more obscure.
You should've seen the audience response when Chromascope was played in the 70s :D
 
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PeterBale

Moderator
Staff member
KMJ Recordings said:
You should've seen the audience response when Chromascope was played in the 70s :D
Trinity College of Music Brass Band opened their lunch-time concert at Regent Hall with it a few years ago, and despite its still rather unusual sonorities no-one batted an eyelid. It certainly deserves to be performed moe frequently.
 

johnflugel

Active Member
I would like to see Kevin Norbury's "Odyssey" used again. Written for the ISB to use at the Nationals Gala then revised version used at the 1999 Europeans (set test won by B&R). Exciting to listen to and sure it would be a crowd pleaser.
 

KMJ Recordings

Supporting Member
PeterBale said:
Trinity College of Music Brass Band opened their lunch-time concert at Regent Hall with it a few years ago, and despite its still rather unusual sonorities no-one batted an eyelid. It certainly deserves to be performed moe frequently.
I think the thing about that, though, is that (relative) atonality and odd things are much more commonplace in the Brass Band arena now. Take it back to 1974 and it was, er, a little more unusual ;)

Back on track, has Revelation been used as a set piece (maybe the European) since it was used at the Open?
 

Maestro

Active Member
Does anyone remember 'Coriolanus'. I last played it a good namy years ago, and was wondering if it was ever played nowadays. If memory serves me right, I think it was by Cyril Jenkins.
 

robcav

Member
I agree with the earlier poster who mentioned Odin. Why does noone play any Arthur Butterworth these days. Caliban and Maoriana are also terrific.
 
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