Tour de Force

From Wind Repertory Project
James Self

James Self

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Subtitle: Episodes for Wind Ensemble

General Info

Year: 2008
Duration: c. 13:15
Difficulty: V (see Ratings for explanation)
Publisher: Basset Hound Music
Cost: Score and Parts - $150.00


Full Score
C Piccolo
Flute I-II
Oboe I-II
English Horn
Bassoon I-II
B-flat Soprano Clarinet I-II-III
E-flat Alto Clarinet
B-flat Bass Clarinet
E-flat Contra Alto Clarinet
B-flat Contrabass Clarinet
B-flat Soprano Saxophone
E-flat Alto Saxophone I-II
B-flat Tenor Saxophone
E-flat Baritone Saxophone
B-flat Trumpet I-II-III
Horn in F I-II-III-IV
Trombone I-II
Bass Trombone
String Bass
Percussion I-II-III-IV-V

(percussion detail desired)


None discovered thus far.

Program Notes

Tour de Force: Episodes for Wind Ensemble is dedicated to Sandy and John Daniels whose generosity made possible the Pacific Symphony's first European tour in spring 2008, hence the title. It was a very special milestone for the orchestra and had a profound musical effect on me. The dictionary defines "tour de force" as a display of strength, skill or ingenuity. Our tour was certainly that and I hope my piece is too.

The wind ensemble version was commissioned by John Daniels and Indiana University of Pennsylvania. The East Coast premiere was September 27, 2009, with the Indiana University of Pennsylvania Wind Ensemble, Jack Stamp conducting, and the West Coast premiere, February 10, 2010, with the University of Southern California Thornton Wind Ensemble, H. Robert Reynolds conducting.

Tour de Force is a series of nine episodes that happen to equal the nine concerts the Pacific Symphony played in Europe. All the episodes connect in one movement. The episodes have no musical connection to the European concerts, and it is not a programmatic piece. The piece begins with a fast, loud flourish of cascading notes slowing and resting on a pedal C in the low instruments.

Episode One is played by a "ripieno" ensemble (a group within a group). This group of nine solo players -- three saxophones, flugel horn, tuba, harp, vibraphone, flute and hand percussion -- plays a haunting slow interlude. The "ripieno" episodes were the first parts written.

Episode Two begins with a rousing fanfare in the horns, woodwinds and percussion followed by building section of contrapuntal lines based on (what is to me) a particularly interesting progression of altered-dominant chords, jazz chords. The whole band joins in the build-up to a chromatic passage in 5/8 meter. The real "feel" is a superimposed 5/16 meter.

Pizzicato-like woodwinds and percussion introduce the Third Episode, a Latin funk in 5/4. Solo trumpet and clarinets play the melody punctuated by piccolo, brass and woodwinds. A short interlude features solo timpani and the percussion section with flutes.

Episode Four is a high-energy section marked by sections of band tutti with percussion material from the earlier interlude, contrapuntal sections and three-against-four rhythmic figures.

The first part of Episode Five is introduced by the harp. It is a development of the earlier jazz progression with a melody in the solo horn, oboe, English horn and clarinets. This leads to a growing contrapuntal section, gradually adding winds and tapering off to Episode Six.

It begins with a slow groove in the percussion. The contra-bassoon plays a solo bass line with staccato solo woodwinds entering every two measures. Horns and muted trumpets add background figures. Low woodwinds introduce the bluesy melody over the percussion. This Episode has a long build-up with the gradual addition of all the instruments and ends with a Gershwin-like clarinet solo.

Episode Seven is a return to the "ripieno" group of nine playing different material. The solo tuba and solo flute are prominent in this section.

Episode Eight starts with a short intro of brief solos: oboe, bassoon, English horn, bass clarinet, and trombone. This is the "beginning of the end." It starts with minimalist percussion figures on Cs and Ds punctuated by winds and brass. Many fragments from earlier episodes are brought back and developed in this long ending. Surprising meter changes, dissonant trumpet interjections and sudden breaks happen all the way to the big finale.

A return of the horn fanfare introduces Episode Nine, a high-energy Tour de Force ending with the whole band (led by the percussion) driving the freight train. The piece ends with two measures of soli brass and finally joined by all the stacked fourth chords.

- Program Note by composer


State Ratings

None discovered thus far.


To submit a performance please join The Wind Repertory Project

  • University of Southern California (Los Angeles) Thornton Wind Ensemble (Sharon Lavery, conductor) - 27 October 2023

Works for Winds by This Composer


None discovered thus far.