Rayner Brown and Fisher
Tull have the lion’s share here. The
former is represented by his very fine
Five Pieces for Organ, Harp, Brass
and Percussion written in 1963
for the Los Angeles Brass Society who
premiered it with the present organist,
Ladd Thomas. The most remarkable feature
of this imposing piece is the very successful
and effective blend of organ and brass
(which seems fairly obvious but is not
always successfully achieved). Some
movements, such as the beautiful Adagio
featuring solo trumpet and harp to telling
effect, are more lightly scored. The
heart of the work is the impressive
Passacaglia (fourth movement).
The whole work is framed by a brilliant
Toccata and a lively Fugue. The music
has a modal flavour, and displays a
good deal of rhythmic energy. The somewhat
more modest Fantasy-Fugue
is a real display of virtuoso writing
for brass, a lovely and rousing piece
to round-off a concert.
Symphony for brass and percussion
is based on plainsong and several liturgical
chants, such as Martyr dei in
the first movement, Picardy and
Adoro devote in the second movement,
a 12th Century Kyrie
plainsong and a chorale by George Henry
Day in the concluding Allegretto.
The music is rhythmically alert, very
varied and fairly straightforward in
spite of some unexpected harmonic and
rhythmic twists as well as some mild
dissonance. His Variations on
an Advent Hymn, based on Veni
Emmanuel, is – on the whole – quite
similar in mood and character, and might
have been one of the symphony’s movements.
William Schmidt’s Sequential
Fanfares for six trumpets and
percussion is in fact a theme and three
variations on an original theme. The
idiom is more astringent although this
resourceful piece of music is again
quite accessible. William Schmidt is
also one of the several Los Angeles
composers who composed short fanfares
for the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Though
each fanfare is short, the composers’
approach is quite varied, so that the
whole of Fanfares 1969
is contrasted, in more than one way.
For example, the fanfare by Frank Campo
uses controlled aleatoric writing whereas
Fred Dutton’s fanfare sounds (to this
writer, at least) as a ‘blues’ variation
on Paganini’s ubiquitous Caprice.
The composers are Jeffrey Reynolds,
Irving Bush, Frank Campo, Fred Dutton,
William Schmidt, William Kraft and Leonard
Rosenman, the latter being particularly
well-known for his many successful film
performances, superbly recorded, although
these recordings were made around 1970-1972.
They were originally released on LPs
(Avant Records AV1001 and AV1005), and
then on Crystal Records (first in LP
format and now re-issued in CD format).
The whole thing sounds remarkably well.
No great masterpieces here, maybe, although
Brown’s Five Pieces and
Tull’s Liturgical Symphony
are far more than mere occasional pieces.