Leonard Bernstein's Broadway show Candide is based on Voltaire's popular novel of 1759 which satirises the optimistic creed of the German philosopher of the Enlightenment, Leibnitz: "All is for the best in this best of all possible worlds".
Dr. Pangloss, tutor to the hero, Candide, is the very embodiment of this theory, maintaining it against all odds, despite the most blatant evidence to the contrary. Misadventures begin when Candide is ejected from the castle of Thunder-ten-tronckh for making love to the baron's daughter Cunégonde, and they continue as he travels far and wide to such diverse places as Lisbon, Venice, Turkey and Portsmouth. Having searched in the most unlikely places for Cunégonde, Candide eventually finds her, now very ugly, and marries her against his will. Pangloss still insists that the disasters, all of which, such as the Lisbon earthquake, have historical precedents, are for the best. They finally settle down on a little farm and conclude that work is the antidote to man's unhappy lot.
First produced on Broadway on 1 December 1956, with the book of the show by Lilian Hellman, known especially for her novel The Little Foxes, it was described as an operetta, rather than a musical. In this costume pastiche, so different from the usual Broadway hit, Bernstein broke most of the rules he had made for himself, for this was not the peculiarly American art form that he judged a musical show should be. In the event Candide failed to provide the usual success for Bernstein, either on Broadway or in the West End, but the Overture has maintained its popularity with orchestras and is often to be heard opening serious concert programmes. It has the sparkle and vivacity of opéra-buffa beginning with an exuberant, boisterous opening for full orchestra. This witty, high-spirited piece of pastiche classicism has something in common with Prokofiev's Classical Symphony as it moves quickly through some of the tunes from the show and the features of a traditional overture. There are hints of composers of the past and Bernstein even supplies his own version of a 'Rossini crescendo'. By the 1980s the Overture to Candide had become distinguished as the single most played orchestral piece by a living composer.
•Bourrée des Masques
Holst wrote three works for military band: a Suite in F, a prelude and scherzo called Hammersmith and this Suite No. 1 in E flat, which was an entry for a competition sponsored by the Worshipful Company of Musicians in 1909. Holst was not the winner, but the work has become one of the most well-known pieces in the band repertoire.
Composed in 1909, Holst wrote on the title page of the score: ‘As each movement is founded on the same phrase, it is requested that the Suite shall be played right through without a break.’ Holst’s experience playing the trombone shines through in this Suite, which is skilfully written for military band. Imogen Holst says that: ‘The First Suite in E flat was an experiment in form, each movement being founded on a fragment of the opening Chaconne… When he opens out into an inevitable meno mosso, it is with the assurance of an experienced bandsman who knows exactly what the other players are going to enjoy’.
•Bourrée des Masques
Reunited was written to anticipate and then celebrate players returning to live rehearsal and performance after the substantial break caused by the Covid-19 pandemic restrictions and is dedicated to the Leeds-based Phoenix Concert Band.
The music is lively and positive, full of colourful cross rhythms and varied scoring. Multiple counter melodies suggest encounters with friends and colleagues and a poignant central section reflects on how people have missed group interaction and support.
Malcolm Arnold studied trumpet and composition at the Royal College of Music, a scholarship allowing him to pursue composing full-time from 1948. His output includes nine symphonies, concertos, music for children and amateurs and film music, as well as popular (and populist) pieces like the overture, Tam O'Shanter, which was composed in 1955 and first performed later that year at the Proms with Arnold conducting the RPO.
This overture is a piece of programme music telling the story of a poem by Robert Burns (from 1790. Tam is a farmer who gets drunk with his friends in a pub at the end of his working week, and then has to ride home on his horse Meg through a storm. On the way he sees the local haunted church lit up, with witches and warlocks dancing and the devil playing the bagpipes. He creeps into the churchyard to watch and on seeing a pretty witch in a short dress he shouts out "Weel done, cutty-sark!" ("short shirt") called out in this arrangement on the trombone. Seeing him, the witches chase him to the River Doon. They cannot cross the water but come so close to catching Tam and Meg that one pulls poor Meg's tail off as they escape.
Arnold conveys the story with superb imagination, and brilliant orchestration. The overture begins with a long high note in the woodwind and a piccolo solo, followed by a 'drunken' duet theme on bassoons. Drum rolls and cymbals denote the stormy weather outside. You will notice loud brass notes piling up on top of each other in a scale, and later a new folk tune on the piccolo. There is a horse whip and jabbing discords; the trombones play one tune in a different key from the rest of the orchestra which is playing other themes. Listen for trills and slides, another high pedal note and big brass discords.
The Big Tune is a clever bagpipe impersonation, over a drone bass in fifths with 'whoops' in the brass and piccolo. Eventually it all dies away to a wispy high trill followed by a 'hymnal' in the flutes and clarinets, like a church prayer (is he thanking God for his lucky escape?) and a finishing flurry.
Although Percy Aldridge Grainger was born an Australian, he spent the majority of his professional life in England and America. He showed tremendous promise at the keyboard and began a professional career as a concert pianist in England in 1901. During this time, Grainger also composed feverishly and began to take particular interest in the native folk-songs of his new homeland.
In 1905, he set about in Brigg, Lincolnshire, on the first of what would become countless trips to the English countryside to collect and document the tunes often sung by the native residents. He delighted in the nuances and “imperfections” rendered by each singer and arranged dozens of these tunes for various ensembles and otherwise included them in his original compositions.
After the outbreak of the First World War, Grainger moved to New York in 1914 and called America his home for the remainder of his life. In 1917, he decided to join the U.S. Army in support of the war effort. He served with the Coast Artillery Band until 1919, playing both oboe and saxophone (which he had taught himself to play, among many other instruments). This was Grainger’s first true experience with a concert band, and he was immediately taken with the unique sound and capabilities of the ensemble. When he died in White Plains, New York, in 1961, he left behind a collection of works that has become the cornerstone of the concert band’s repertoire.
As a composer, Grainger was ahead of his time — he used mixed meters and irregular rhythms before Stravinsky did, and was a pioneer in the collection of folk music. He is also known for shunning the use of Italian terms in music scores, preferring the use of phrases such as “slow up” and “louden lots.” Lincolnshire Posy is Grainger’s seminal work for wind band. The song transcriptions often include faithfully represented interruptions to the song recordings, or disputes over how the melody should be represented. The Posy comprises Dublin Bay, a sailor's song, followed by Harkstow Grange, subtitled “The Miser and his Man: a local Tragedy” and Rufford Park Poachers, a poaching song. The Brisk Young Sailor “who returned to wed his true-love” precedes Lord Melbourne, a song about the Duke of Marlborough and a genuine war-song – a rare thing in English folksong. In stark contrast, the suite is completed with The Lost Lady Found, a real dance-song from the days when voices rather than instruments accompanied village dancers.
The True Heroes is another of Keiron’s compositions produced during the Covid-19 restrictions. The work was written in recognition of, and with gratitude for, the tireless efforts of those working within the NHS at one of the most difficult times this vital institution has faced.
The piece has unsettling rhythmic motifs and harmonies giving an agitated feeling to the work. Brass fanfares symbolise the heroics involved in what has now become daily life. Scurrying notes throughout the orchestra reflect the relentless pace of working on the health service’s front line exacerbated by incessant Covid outbreaks. There is a brief moment of respite, an attempt to find a moment of stillness represented by low flutes and a melancholic melody, but this remains haunted by the unsettling rhythmic motifs and harmonies, and is short-lived as the unremitting activity starts up again all too soon. This premiere performance is dedicated to all those who gave so much during the pandemic – the True Heroes caring for us all.
Arturo Márquez was born in Álamos, Sonora, where his interest in music began. He started composing at the age of 16 and then attended the Mexican Music Conservatory. Márquez was awarded a scholarship by the French government to study composition with Jacques Casterede. He obtained a degree in composition in 1990 from California Institute of the Arts, where he studied with Morton Subotnick and Mel Powell, amongst others.
Although Márquez was already an accomplished composer in Mexico in the early 1990s, his music started to reach the international stage with his series of Danzones.
The Danzones are based on the music of Cuba primarily, but the Cuban folkloristic elements are also a very important part of the folklore of the Veracruz region of Mexico. Danzon No. 2 was first performed in 1994 in Mexico City. It has become one of the most popular and frequently performed of Mexican contemporary classical music for orchestra.
Keiron was born in Aberdeen and studied trumpet and keyboard at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester where he started both a light orchestra and big band. His career has multiple strands: musical director, composer, performer, teacher.
Keiron currently directs Yorkshire Wind Orchestra (1994 – ) which he has brought to its present level of excellence, Nottingham Symphonic Winds (2006 – ) with whom he has produced many excellent concerts and recordings, and Phoenix Concert Band (2003 – ) which he has developed into a high-quality community wind band. He has worked with many other groups including Harlequin Brass, Leeds Conservatoire Wind Orchestra, Nottingham Symphony Orchestra, the National Saxophone Choir of Great Britain and numerous chamber ensembles throughout the UK and Europe as part of a diverse and rich schedule of conducting. Keiron approaches each group differently according to its particular character, capabilities, ambition and rehearsal schedule!
Keiron is a prolific composer producing unique and exciting new music across an eclectic mix of styles. Some of these works are written specifically for the groups he directs or as commissions for other ensembles. Others are intended to be enjoyed on Soundcloud.
Keiron has worked extensively as a freelance performer from performing in a chamber orchestra in Bridlington sightreading 12 concerts a week, to work with the Scottish Ballet Orchestra, London Festival Ballet, Welsh Opera, Scottish National Orchestra and the BBC Northern Radio Orchestra. Keiron also established the Keiron Anderson Orchestra and completed several years working on cruise ships followed by a period in Spain before returning to the UK and performing all over the country with artists such as Cannon and Ball, Ronnie Corbett, Bob Monkhouse, Little and Large, Frankie Vaughan and many more.
Keiron’s teaching experience includes 10 years as a peripatetic teacher of brass and composition, three years as Head of the Ilkley Music Centre and 18 years as Head of Music, then Head of Creative Arts at Ilkley Grammar School.