Sunday, February 7, 2016

J.S. Bach

The most often "stolen" music that is arranged and performed for brass ensembles of any size has to be the music of Johann Sebastian Bach.  The enormous volume of repertoire composed by Bach (due mostly to his job requirements during his time in Leipzig) has allowed brass players and composers of brass music the ability to access the music of arguably the most influential composer of western classical music. 

Very few of Bach's compositions used brass instruments.  Yet, Bach's use of imitation, motivic development, harmonic organization, and varied textures allow for a seamless transition to brass ensembles.  Additionally most of the repertoire used by brass ensembles comes from the organ music of Bach.  Brass instruments have been used throughout Western history to simulate an organ in many religious traditions and classical settings (i.e. the Moravian tradition).  Thus, the transition or organ music to brass instruments is very logical and frequently visited by brass ensembles.

My personal favorite example of music of Bach arranged for brass is the Passacalia and Fugue in C minor, BWV 582.  In the video below, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Brass perform an arrangement by Eric Crees.    The recording is from their album "Chicago Symphony Orchestra Brass Live" on the CSO Resound label. 

Another popular trend in the use of Bach's music is the use of homogeneous ensembles of the same instrument.  This can create very unique opportunities and challenges for these types of ensembles.  Dealing with the same BWV 582 piece discussed above, this performance is an arrangement for trombone octet by Donald Hunsberger, the famed conductor and arranger for the Eastman Wind Ensemble for many years. 

A final example in the link below is a performance of Bach's most famous organ composition, the Toccata and Fugue in d minor, BWV 565, performed here by the German Brass at the Bach Festival in Leipzig.

1 comment:

  1. Very difficult to pull these pieces off on brass, requires very precise playing. Quite impressive recordings.