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  David Stybr: Brass Quintet in C Minor (complete) (27:30)
plus encore: Cortège in A Minor for Brass Quintet
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David Stybr: Engineer and Composer

It's Left Brain vs. Right Brain: best 2 falls out of 3

Brass Quintet in C Minor (complete) (27:30)
I. Allegro moderato (7:00) - C Minor - Page 2 in the score
II. Scherzo: Allegro (3:30) - A Major - Page 15
III. Romanze: Andante (5:10) - A Minor - Page 25
IV. Finale: Allegro molto (5:10) - C Major - Page 31
Encore: Cortège in A Minor for Brass Quintet (6:25) - Page 43

Commentary by Left Brain and Right Brain.

I. Allegro moderato (7:00) - C Minor - Page 2 in the score * Return

Right Brain: "This piece turned out very differently than expected, which is one of the joys of composition. Heaven knows why I bother to compose at all, except that it is extremely satisfying."

Left Brain: "The concept of my Brass Quintet is clear melodies and forms (sonata, scherzo & trio, rondo etc.), replete with counterpoint and unorthodox techniques, harmonies and key relationships. For example, C Major and A Minor have identical key signatures, whereas C Minor and A Major are extremely distantly related indeed. The 4 movements are broadly in C Minor, A Major, A Minor and C Major respectively. This 1st movement is a Sonata Allegro: a brief Introduction, an Exposition of 2 main themes, a fugato Development, a modified Recapitulation and a Coda."

Right Brain: "All right, Weisenheimer, I have a few tricks up my sleeve too. Theme I and Theme II have simple 4-phrase structures: AABA. The 1st, 2nd and 4th phrases are similar, with a contrasted 3rd phrase. Behold, their 3rd phrase is the same Chorale, which evolves into a quasi-theme. And that's not all, folks! Theme II glides through 3 or 4 tonalities in every phrase; lyrical, yet it hogs all the keys. The movement is mostly in C Minor, but it meanders via C Major and A Minor into a fugato development in F-Sharp Minor. The fugue chops up parts of the Introduction, Theme I, Theme II and the Chorale. Pretty snazzy eh?"

Left Brain: "Most impressive. Technical structures are generally my concern."

Right Brain: "Good thing I kept an eye on some practical details. The 1st draft of this movement almost killed the tuba player. We could have renamed it Totentanz für Baßtuba. The tuba is a huge instrument with an enormous need of air, so I inserted far more rests among the notes for everybody to breathe. Otherwise we'd need a hybrid bagpipe-tuba for extremely long breaths."

Left Brain: "More rests also helped the whole piece become more 'airy'. This movement was completed in July 2001 in the French colonial village of Saint Charles, Missouri. Très charmant."

II. Scherzo: Allegro (3:30) - A Major - Page 15 * Return

Right Brain: "I am very impressed by this piece. Extremely impressed. It is written in A Major, but no sooner is one key firmly stated, when the music slips into another: D, G, C, F, B-Flat etc. Then it slides back into A Major again. Scherzophrenic, if you ask me. The chromatic movement upward of voices in the central canon is exciting too, and next all the voices try to talk at once."

Left Brain: "Completed in Lawrence, Kansas in May 2001, this brief Scherzo is in concentrated rondo form: ABACDABACoda. It also has some elements of my beloved sonata form. Section C is literally a trio for 2nd trumpet, trombone and tuba in canon. Section D is a brief development section: all 3 themes A, B and C in counterpoint."

Right Brain: "A brass quintet might find this difficult to play. The arpeggios in particular are hard to execute, but they emphasize the key, which then changes almost immediately. Perhaps a professional ensemble would not have a problem. If they did, it would only increase the excitement."

Left Brain: "This is truly ensemble music. For example, the trombone wisely stands apart from these arpeggios, because it would sound more like a glissando, and its majestic voice also stands out in bold relief. Throughout this piece, all voices have both solo and support rôles."

Right Brain: "This piece requires a team effort, which pays dividends. The interplay of themes is delightful. Difficult or not, this music is so doggone fun and inventive that it's worth the effort."

III. Romanze: Andante (5:10) - A Minor - Page 25 * Return

Left Brain: "As stated earlier, one basic concept of my Brass Quintet is key relationships. The other 3 movements exploit these relationships, and modulate into many different keys. This Romanze, however, retains the same key signature throughout. The music remains entirely in A Minor and its relative major, C Major, despite many attempts to modulate into other keys."

Right Brain: "A constraint in one area can spur growth in another. This movement took quite a different direction from expected. It almost had a mind of its own! My wife, author Denise Swanson, says the same about her novels: her characters sometimes develop as they see fit. This makes composition truly exciting, but before long I had too many ideas for a single movement. The music diverged from a Romanze into a spooky Cortège, also in A Minor. Luckily, after most of that took shape, more ideas appeared in my mind for a Romanze, but with a very different character. Gee whiz, now I have two 3rd movements on my hands: fraternal twins, so to speak. Actually, this Romanze is the real 3rd movement of my Brass Quintet. Cortège in A Minor is a separate piece."

Left Brain: "Given your predilection for change and development, and your general unruliness, one should not be surprised at this sort of musical divergence."

Right Brain: "Just a cotton-pickin' minute! Are you casting asparagus on my compositional techniques? I'll have you know that I saved this 3rd movement for last. A slow movement can be deceptively simple, because it often forms the heart and soul of the entire work. I waited until I was good and ready to compose it."

Left Brain: "From a structural perspective, this movement is in rondo form: ABACABA. A brief Introduction in C Major occurs thrice, before the first 3 statements of Theme A, but the key immediately reverts to A Minor. Theme B is formed from the 1st phrase of Theme A and its accompaniment, which are interchanged. Theme C is a Chorale in C Major, based on an inversion of the Introduction and development of parts of Themes A and B. This Romanze was completed in Ann Arbor, Michigan in July 2001."

IV. Finale: Allegro molto (5:10) - C Major - Page 31 * Return

Left Brain: "The Finale seems at first to be in simple rondo form, but soon reveals itself to be in sonata form. Theme I is a jaunty March in C Major, and Theme II is a stately Chorale in F Major. The exposition is repeated in abbreviated and slightly varied form, but with the Chorale in G Major. Fragments of both themes are presented in counterpoint and in augmentation during the development. The recapitulation presents the 2 themes in reverse order, followed by a very brief coda. It was completed in Bangor, Maine in June 2001."

Right Brain: "Right you are. For some reason, the Finale soon evolves into a tug-of-war between C Major, F Major and G Major, until in the development G-Flat Major suddenly takes over! Looks like I need some help from Arthur 'Six Flats' Jackson, nudge nudge, wink wink, say no more! Did he compose in the flat?"

Left Brain: "Leave it to you to quote Monty Python in a musical analysis. The home key of the Finale is C Major, with F Major the subdominant and G Major the dominant. G-Flat Major is exactly between these two, and also the remotest possible key from C Major."

Right Brain: "Someone said that arpeggios are difficult for brass instruments, but I just couldn't resist. In the Scherzo, arpeggios emphasize the key, which then changes almost immediately. In the central development section of the Finale, arpeggios also create some simply gorgeous bell-like sonorities. Why not? After all, brass instruments have bells, eh? Well, as the trombonist once said, I'll let that slide."

Left Brain: "In conclusion, you might be amused to learn that the French word for 'paper clip' is 'trombone'. Most appropriate."

Cortège in A Minor for Brass Quintet (6:25) - Page 43 * Return

Right Brain: "Sometimes a piece develops completely differently than expected. As I began the 3rd movement Romanze of my Brass Quintet, this Cortège seized me and virtually composed itself."

Left Brain: "It was most disturbing to find my carefully planned overall form transmogrified in such a manner. However, loathe as I am to admit it, the results are truly fascinating. Whereas most of my music is planned in advance, this work truly emerged on its own."

Right Brain: "You expect form to be a vacuum mold, with the notes fully shaped, eh? Where's the fun in that? Besides, the Romanze also emerged in all its glory: 2 pieces for the price of 1."

Left Brain: "Au contraire, mon ami; form is merely the structure upon which the notes are built, such as sonata form. The Exposition presents a gloomy Theme I in A Minor, and a stately Theme II in E Minor and F Minor. The Development transforms the duplet-plus-triplet accompaniment of Theme I into a radiant quintuplet D Major theme, which is later inverted. The Recapitulation restates Theme I in A Minor, but Theme II in B Minor and C Minor. In the Coda, the quintuplet Development theme triumphs in a celestial A Major for a serene conclusion. This was completed in August 2001 in Madison, Wisconsin."

Right Brain: "Thank you for that riveting analysis. You forgot to mention the original and forceful personalities of the themes and their progressions, and that the entire work enjoys strong momentum. Something else which sets me apart from many other 21st Century composers is my enjoyment of good honest melodies. Even instrumental music should sing. Quasi sempre cantabile."

Left Brain: "The title Cortège seemed most appropriate. The Oxford English Dictionary defines 'cortège' simply as 'a funeral procession'. However, Le Dictionnaire Français Larousse defines 'cortège' as 'ensemble de personnes qui suivent quelqu'un, quelque chose ou défilent sur la voie publique [group of persons who follow someone, something or march in a public route]', which is very different indeed. This piece represents both English and French definitions: Ma Cortège en La Mineur pour Quintette à Cuivres est une petite procession avec diverses humeurs: c'est funéraire et majestique, pessimiste et optimiste, etc. Cependent dans la dernière partie, une ésprit d'optimisme tranquille triomphe. Donc c'est une procession et une progression, de la tristesse à la joie. Pour ces raisons le nom français Cortège me semble juste."

Right Brain: "Pardon your French."

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© 2001 David Stybr * Updated 13 August 2001
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