Symphony for Brass and Percussion
This work bears the designation Opus 16.
1. Andante - Allegro - Andante - 4:36
2. Vivace - 4:09
3. Lento Desolato - 3:33
4. Quasi Cadenza - Allegro - 5:22
B-flat Trumpet I-II-III-IV-V-VI
Horn in F I-II-III-IV
- Suspended cymbal
None discovered thus far.
The purpose in writing this piece was primarily to write a symphony. Secondarily it provided me with an opportunity to make use of my experiences of sitting day in, day out, in the midst of brass sections, and to show that members of the brass family are not limited to the stereotypes of expression usually associated with them. Thus, there is more to the horn than its “heroic” or “noble” or “romantic” character, or to the trumpet than its usefulness in fanfares. Indeed, these instruments are capable of the entire gamut of expression. Their full resources and the amazing advances made — especially in America — (during the mid-twentieth century) have been left largely unexploited by most contemporary composers.
The concept of the Symphony is of four contrasting movements, each representing one aspect of brass characteristics. Unity is maintained by a line of increasing inner intensity (not loudness) that reaches its peak in the last movement. The introductory first movement is followed by a scherzo with passages requiring great agility and technical dexterity. The third movement, scored almost entirely for six muted trumpets, brings about a further intensification of expression. The precipitous outburst at the beginning of the last movement introduces a kind of cadenza in which the first trumpet predominates. A timpani roll provides a bridge to the finale proper, which is a kind of perpetuum mobile.
Running through the entire movement are sixteenth-note figures passing from one instrument to another in an unending chain. Out of this chattering pattern emerges the climax of the movement, in which a chord consisting of all twelve notes of the chromatic is broken up in a sort of rhythmic atomization, each pitch being sounded on a different sixteenth of the measure.
- Program Note by composer
Exceptional college or professional bass and percussion players will call upon all facets of their training and experience when performing this piece. Schiller capitalizes upon the wide range and versatility of the brass section, and his manipulation of sound forces is memorable. It is a lengthy work that evades clear tonality. As such, careful consideration should be given to programming. An attentive audience will acknowledge the sophisticated structure and creative scoring of this modern piece.
- Program Note from Great Music for Wind Band
Schuller was playing horn in the Cincinnati Symphony in 1950 when he completed three of what was to become four movements of the Symphony for Brass and Percussion. The three movements were premiered in February of that year by the Group A Brass Ensemble at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, conducted by Ernest Glover, a leading proponent of the brass choir movement in the 40s and 50s. By 1951, Schuller had completed the fourth movement and the complete work received its first New York performance, conducted by Leon Barzin. Later, a performance at the hands of Dimitri Mitropoulos with the New York Philharmonic (in November, 1956) did much to propel the composition into a permanent place in the repertory of brass ensembles. At the same time, this performance was a pivotal event in Schuller's rising career, bringing him to the attention of Aaron Copland, Samuel Barber, and Pierre Monteux among others.
The opening chord of the first movement sounds like all twelve notes of the chromatic scale stacked vertically, the clever voicing heralding an auspicious beginning. A lyrical trumpet solo occurs immediately after the opening chord. Later, the movement develops into a spirited allegro. The second movement is a frenzied scherzo. The penultimate section is a brief lento that employs muted trumpets to great aural advantage.
This is superb idiomatic brass writing, and the work is very challenging technically for the performers. Schuller's complete understanding of the capabilities of brass instruments is incredible. The work comes to a conclusion with a final chord of twelve-pitches splintered.
- Program Note by Norbert Carnovale for Allmusic
- Audio CD: Summit Brass - 1995
None discovered thus far.
To submit a performance please join The Wind Repertory Project
- Southern Methodist University (Dallas, Tx.) Meadows Wind Ensemble (Jack Delaney, conductor) – 15 November 2019
- University of Southern California (Los Angeles) Thornton Wind Ensemble (H. Robert Reynolds, conductor) - 1 November 2019
- University of Manchester Brass Ensemble - 5 November 2011
Works for Winds by this Composer
- Blue Dawn into White Heat (1997)
- Bright and Sassy
- Combination March (as arranger)
- Diptych for Brass Quintet and Concert Band
- Double Quintet for Wind and Brass Quintets
- Eine Kleine Posaunenmusik
- Fanfare for St Louis
- From Here to There (2013)
- Jumpin' in the Future
- Lines and Contrasts
- Nature's Way
- On Winged Flight
- Saxophobia (as arranger) (1918/199-?)
- Song and Dance
- Study in Textures
- Symphony No. 3, "In Praise of Winds" (1981)
- Symphony for Brass and Percussion (1950)
- Tear Drop
- Tre Invenzioni for Chamber Ensembles
- Nicholson, Chad. (2009). Great Music for Wind Band: A Guide to the Top 100 Works in Grades IV, V, VI. Galesville, MD: Meredith Music Publications. pp 165-166.
- Schuller, G. (1959). Symphony for Brass and Percussion, Op. 16 [score]. Malcolm Music: New York.
- Smith, Norman E. (2002). Program Notes for Band. Chicago: GIA Publications. pp. 537.