“New” Music for Brass Trio

As mentioned previously in this post, the Chamber Arts Brass recently performed at the Big 12 Trombone Conference in Lubbock, TX.  We just received the recording from the concert, and overall I’m very pleased with it.  The hall had a nice resonant sound, but you can still hear articulations very clearly.  You can check out recordings of two of the pieces we performed at the end of this post.  The first one is Daniel Schnyder’s Trio for Trumpet, French horn, and Trombone, a relatively new work composed in 1996.  The other piece is one I’m fairly sure most people aren’t familiar with, Diversions for Brass Trio by Roger Jones.  Dr. Jones taught theory, composition, and tuba at The University of Louisiana at Monroe, and retired a few years before I joined the faculty.  I came across this piece while looking over some old Chamber Arts Brass programs from the late 1980s and early 1990s.  I contacted Roger and asked him if he would be willing to send us the piece, and he graciously provided our trio with a full set of parts.  As an introduction to the piece I’ve included some program notes that Roger wrote.

Diversions for Brass Trio was sketched in the spring of 1980 as a compositional exercise to explore the medium made standard by Francis Poulenc’s Sonata for Horn, Trumpet and Trombone. Like that milestone piece, Diversions is neoclassical and at times whimsical. The completed sketch was set aside until 1989, when a few revisions were made, and the work was premiered at The University of Louisiana at Monroe (then Northeast Louisiana University) in April of that year.

Diversions consists of five movements. The first, “Statement”, presents a bold motive that is then developed imitatively. Though starting somewhat brashly, the music leads to a soft conclusion. “Invention” follows with a new motive based on a rising line. Its six sections explore that material contrapuntally and include modified quotes of the “Statement” motive. “March” is the most whimsical of the movements and is set in an ABABA structure The primary melody in “Song” is derived directly from the “Statement” motive. It contrasts with the rising-line motive that has now become a melody itself. “Finale”, also on the whimsical side, is a rondo with most of the episodes containing developmental material. However a new idea is inserted late in the movement for contrast. The “statement” motive again returns several times, and with an abrupt slowing of tempo allows the rising-note theme to appear one final time. It is followed by a last hearing of the “Statement” motive just before the short and brisk conclusion.

Roger Jones 2011

To my knowledge the piece is not published, but it really should be!  It is well-written, accessible to a wide variety of audiences, and very playable.  I do hope that Roger considers publishing the work in the future and making it available to other brass trios.

Chamber Arts Brass, live performance at the Big 12 Trombone Conference, Texas Tech University, January  2011

Alex Noppe, trumpet; James Boldin, horn; Micah Everett, trombone

Daniel Schnyder, Trio for Trumpet, French horn, and Trombone

Movement 1

Movement 2

Movement 3 

Movement 4

Movement 5

Roger Jones, Diversions for Brass Trio

Movement 1

Movement 2 

Movement 3

Movement 4

Movement 5

Daniel Schnyder’s Trio for Trumpet, French Horn, and Trombone

In a post last week I mentioned that the Chamber Arts Brass Trio would be performing this weekend at the Big XII Trombone Conference in Lubbock, TX.  We’ll be playing a short program with lots of variety, including original and arranged works for brass trio.  One of the most interesting (and most difficult) pieces on the program is Daniel Schnyder’s Trio for Trumpet, French Horn, and Trombone.  Schnyder (pronounced “Schnee-dur,” I believe) has written several pieces with horn, and is a composer worth checking out if you don’t know his music.  Several well known soloists, including David Jolley and Adam Unsworth, have recorded his works.  Composed in 1996, his brass trio is very rewarding, but also quite challenging, to perform.  Schnyder makes use of the full range and technical capabilities of each instrument – the work can be performed on tenor or bass trombone, and flugel horn is also called for in some movements.  All three parts require extended techniques, with the most “special effects” being required of the trombonist.  The first movement doesn’t contain many extended techniques for the horn, but as you can see from the passage below, does require some pretty solid technique.  The tempo marking is quarter note = ca. 120. [All excerpts taken from Daniel Schnyder’s Trio for Trumpet, French Horn, and Trombone, published in 1996 by Editions Marc Reift, Crans-Montana (Switzerland)]

The second movement is attacca (as are the other movements), and can be quite challenging to put together because of the sudden tempo shifts, as seen in the excerpt below.  The range and overall technique required in this movement are also noteworthy.  Notice the vertical slashes over the beats – these were very helpful to me in sorting out the rhythms.

Although rhythmically and technically complex, the third movement almost has the flavor of pop or rock music, especially in the repeating riff that the horn and trombone play (see example).

This passage is actually easier than it looks, once the syncopations and leaps have been worked out at a slow tempo. For me, the real key to pulling off this part is just relaxing and settling into the groove.

The fourth movement is very straightforward, and makes for a wonderful contrast after the fireworks which precede it.  The fifth movement is notated without a meter, although dashed bar lines imply where the strong and weak beats are.  All three parts are identical, and are played in octaves.  Notice the unusual note values and the quarter-tone marking over the g-flat.

We’ve spent several months putting the trio together, and I’m sure our hard work will pay off in the performance.  If you are interested in a challenging but very fun piece for brass trio, consider programming this work.  You can also find an excellent recording of this trio by visiting Adam Unsworth’s website.

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