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  • Cantus Quintus for Brass Quintet

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    Hi all,

    There has been a plethora of brilliant new music appearing on the forum in recent weeks, so I'd first like to congratulate those of you that have shared your music; as always, inspirational!

    My new piece, first written in 2015, Cantus Quintus for Brass Quintet, has finally been realized with VSL, using the symphonic cube standard library, and placed in the Vienna Konzerthaus Foyer. Hope you'll enjoy!

    Cantus Quintus for Brass Quintet - PLAY

  • Quick comment on first hearing...this composition sounds beautiful.

    One observation: It seems that whatever you compose, for strings or brass.... there is an imprint of the accordian ;) I mean this as a complement, that you have a distinctive style based on your background.

    The rendering was overall good but I felt that at times the fast legato phrases sounded a little unclear, or "mushy" (e.g., the trumpet notes just after 00:15 seconds). Maybe adjusting the dynamics (pp<ff ) would help? The experts here could weigh in.

  • Hi Dave,

    I was a little surprised to see a composition for brass from your hand. As usual it is a very decent work, well elaborated and balanced as a composition. However I totally disagree with agitato about the accordion imprint. You are a skilled composer with enough background to write other things than merely for the noble accordion. In my opinion, you have written many works in different styles, forms, orchestrations to prove that you can easily surpass the popular accordion writing. Moreover, the modern (free bass) accordion isn't by far the instrument that our ancestors were using on the streets or during popular community parties to dance to. Present day accordion music is very complicated and rich: it has conquered a true place next to all the traditional 'classical' instruments on the concert scene, able to play mutipart counterpoint in right and left hand, together with extremely delicate phrasing.

    My whole life I've been struggling to get rid of the idea that our beloved instrument would be just for cheap amusement. That may have been so, but that period is long time over. I don't pretend that agitato is referring to the cheap accordion literature, but I wonder whether he would have said the same without his knowledge that you play the accordion.

    I am an accordionist too and I'm proud of it, but I play the piano, flute, recorder as well and I've studied musical theory, analysis, harmony, counterpoint, history... Does that make all my music 'accordion music'? I don't think so. Does the accordion have an influence? Maybe, but definitely not always. I know that the intuitive selection of accompanying chords for the accordion bass during live performance helps in harmonising music, but classical harmony is quite different and makes strictly regulated connections and progressions, which the accordionist doens't have to apply or be aware of. It may help, but only in a limited way.

    This said, I find your Cantus Quintus a very good composition. The trumpet sound however disappoints me a bit and there I have to agree with agitato. (Is it the choice of the Foyer? I don't know...)

    But I guess you have other 'expectations' on your mind now. I wish you and Becky all the best and please, let us know!


  • Agitato, thank you for taking the time to listen.  I am happy you enjoyed the piece and I'm in agreement with your comments re. the trumpet.  Becky and I both struggle with the brass instruments, as there are certain timbral qualities/behaviours that we can't ever seem to overcome when rendering works.  For instance, the trumpet in C (we don't have the B flat trumpet) seems sonically "bright and compressed/pinched" relative to the light, almost flute-like quality one might hear with a recording of the Canadian Brass, for example (obviously partial as I am Cdn. and also had opportunity to do some masterclasses with them in my youth).  We definitely spend significantly more time shaping a performance with brass instruments than with the winds/strings.  Further, as to the reverb, we were aware that placing it in the foyer of the Konzerthaus would invite a wetter/muddier sound, but also from experience of listening to many live brass quintets and speaking with their members, they've always been partial to the warmth/large reverbs of cathedrals, etc.  There are always compromises...

    Max, thank you as always for your poignant and well-considered observations.  I too am unsure how to interpret the "accordion-inspired" footprint on my compositions.  My background with the accordion has been rooted in classical transcriptions (Bach, Scarlatti, Haydn, Mozart, Schubert, etc.) as well as living repertoire from North American and European composers, along with a dose of folk music from Italy, Russia, Finland, and a myriad of other places.  Further, I've performed the accordion with orchestras, every imaginable chamber ensemble (accordion, clarinet, viola, and tuba, anyone?) and electronics.  All that is to say that I don't really see the accordion as the more often held cliches that many people have (shmoozy, shmaltzy, Parisian cafe, etc.) but rather as a versatile instrument capable of being at home with Bach to Bluegrass, jazz to avant garde post modernism.

    I'm sure Agitato doesn't mean it in any dismissive way (he as much said it was meant as a compliment!) but it's funny how over a lifetime of trying to gain legitimacy for the instrument, there's always a need to defend against perceived elitist type commentary from classical purists/academics, etc. (not suggesting that Agitato or anyone on the forum is this way, rather my personal experiences with musicians over the years).  For instance, I wrote a piece that will be part of our next CD, for clarinet, accordion, violin, cello, and piano.  The pianist, frustrated by some of the passages, suggested I was not writing for the piano properly, but was rather writing very "accordionisticly" (her words!)  The points to which she was referring, were sweeping arpeggiated runs, where the hands would cross...much in line with Chopin.  In fact, those runs would have been impossible to play on the accordion, so I had to chuckle to myself, believing she was attempting to discredit me as a composer because she was only willing to look at me as an not on the level of "real musicians" like her.   Such is life...for every time I've had that kind of interaction, I've also had people fall in love with the accordion and its capabilities.

    Anyway, I digress.  Thanks gentlemen for your comments and I hope you'll listen to the next couple of pieces I'll be posting in the coming days!


    p.s.  Baby is about 3 weeks away, so Becky decides we should "quickly" finish my 25 minute orchestral suite before we don't have the chance! lol

  • Max,

    it is interesting you assumed that I thought the Accordian was not a rich instrument;) I said nothing to imply that. I should have probably been more clear.

    Hi Dave

    glad you didnt get me wrong. I find it hard to describe what I feel when I hear your music and sense an accordian like 'shaping' of the way the music flows, both in dynamics and phrasing. This has no bearing on the technical sophistication of the piece. Afterall great composers have had a unique imprint of their musical expertise/background, without which there is no individuality. For example Joaquin Rodrigo's imprint of guitar in his pieces...and Mahler sounds entirely different from Ravel for instance...

    Anyways keep up your good work and hope you get more and more sophisticated in expressing your musical thoughts.

    It is interesting that both you and Max agreed with me regarding the difficulty of shaping the brass. I've been trying to sequence Mahler's 5th as a practice and Ive been struggling wth the solo trumpet phrases in the opening bars. It sounds very synthy at high dynamics. Not sure what I might be doing wrong. I will post a clip soon to get feedback and help. I am sure VSL is one of the best quality samples out there and Id like to know how to achieve a good realism with these samples.

    And all the best for the new baby arrival!


  • Hi Anand, I understand what you mean about the way an accordion would shape phrases and dynamics. i believe the accordion, with its highly expressive capabilities, has influenced my writing, but so has the counterpoint of Bach, the lyricism of Mozart, and the harmonic language of Faure, Debussy, and Piazzolla, among others. It's funny though, because I recently completed a piece that my wife told me was reminiscent of Poulenc...I swear I've never listened to his music and only know him by name. :) Dave

  • Hi Dave,

    I found it to be rather interesting and quirky. There was a neo classical Stravinskian element to it that I found appealing and my overall impression was that players would enjoy its challenges. The counterpoint was very nice and the sense of the long line (as opposed to short phrasings etc.) was convincing and in the main unpredictable - which is a good thing in my book.

    To my ears, you are beginning to expand your language and there is a sense of liberation in the writing which is quite infectious and takes one on the journey with you. Some lovely harmony and moments of repose too.

    Well done, from what I've heard this is my favourite so far.

  • Welcome back, Mike!  It's been a while since we've had the privilege of your company on the forum and I'm glad you were able to take a moment to listen to and comment on my piece.  This was written prior to acquiring Vienna libraries a couple of years ago and so we waited until now to produce it.  In terms of "expanding my musical language", it's funny you should mention that, because as I now sit back and look at the body of repertoire I've created over the past few years, there isn't a natural progression/advancement that one could easily point to.  I find myself constantly at odds with writing instantly accessible tonal music with clearly defined themes, rhythms, and predictable harmonic progressions, to more avant-garde music that displaces the listener's "equilibrium" with dissonance, varied rhythmic patterns, fragmented and intertwined melodic motifs, and unexpected harmonic progressions.  Furthermore, there rarely is ever a "reason" for writing what I write, when I write it.  I'm almost never inspired by anything in particular when I begin a piece, and even more, I don't let my current mood influence/dictate the direction of the music I write.  Basically, the composition process is all very random/spontaneous, which is part of what I enjoy. 


  • PaulP Paul moved this topic from Orchestration & Composition on