Monthly Archives: March 2013

Nino Rota


Back to film, sort of… Italian composer Nino Rota (1911-1979) is perhaps best known for his original score to The Godfather. In his career he composed the music for over 150 films, ten operas, and many other concert and chamber works. In perusing the catalogue of his concert works, I only came across one piece for brass ensemble, his Sonata per Ottoni e Organo/Sonata for Brass and Organ. This piece, written in 1972, features two trumpets, two trombones, and organ. As an interesting contrast, 1972 was also the year that The Godfather was released…

Here is a video of the work:

Elliott Carter


We take a quick break in the realm of film composers to address a work by American composer Elliott Carter. The piece in question is Brass Quintet, a wildly difficult work composed in 1974.

      1. This piece brings up several emotions. As mentioned in class, one for me is a tinge of boredom. For a single movement work, twelve minutes is lenghthy, and the relative lack of approachable or easily tangible musical elements draws out that lenghth even more. At a point, I say to myself “I get it, let’s move on.”

      2. Carter created this effect by, as mentioned above, crafting a single movement work that, upon initial listening, has no cadence points.

      3. I think the hardest measure to perform would be a measure that contains implicit interplay between two or more parts, such as in measure 43 or 281. However, the issue of difficulty makes me wonder if this piece is meant to be performed in a Babbitt-ian sense or a Strauss-ian sense. That is, does every black mark on the page need to be exactly precise, or is it more the effect that is important, with the notation just showing one example of how it might look?

      4. I think it is valuable in a course such as this to explore all types of brass ensemble music. Although this piece does not fall in line with my personal compositional aesthetics, others may feel differently and be moved accordingly. However, the infrequency at which this piece is performed does raise questions to its relevancy.

      5. Carter studied with Nadia Boulanger and Charles Ives, which explains the avant garde style with shreds of tonality. Perhaps more enlightening are the influences of thinkers like Einstein and James Joyce, lending to his music the element of complexity. Davison’s quintet is much more traditional in the sense of formal and harmonic structure.

Aaron Copland


Aaron Copland (1900-1990) is often associated with codifying the sound of American music. His compositional style featuring open intervals and the incorporation of jazz and folk tunes contributed to the success and popularity of his music. While best known for his concert works including music for solo instruments, symphonies, and ballets, Copland was also an active film composer, scoring films such as Of Mice and Men, The North Star, and The Heiress.

 His music for brass ensemble is perhaps best represented by one of his seminal works, Fanfare for the Common Man. However, less known is his work Ceremonial Fanfare, written some 27 years after Common Man. Upon an initial listening, Copland’s open harmonies remain present, but the overall tonality is considerably more dissonant, perhaps a product of his study into the Second Viennese School (of which he didn’t fully agree with/adopt). Here is a video with a performance by the Cincinnati Pops:

Malcolm Arnold

Composer Malcolm Arnold

Malcolm Arnold (1921-2006) was a British composer of film and concert works, whose original score to The Bridge on the River Kwai won him an academy award in 1957. In his life he composed over 100 film scores, and many concert works including nine symphonies.

For brass instruments he wrote the following:

Quintet for Brass, Op. 73

Brass Quintet, Op. 132

Little Suite No. 1 for Brass Band, Op. 80

Little Suite No. 2 for Brass Band, Op. 93

Little Suite No. 3 for Brass Band, Op. 131

Fantasy for Brass Band

Symphony for Brass Instruments, Op. 123

His Symphony for Brass Instruments was written in 1987 for the Phillips Jones Brass Ensemble, and consists of four movements, totaling 25 minutes. It was first performed at the Cheltenham Festival in the United Kingdom. Here is a clip of the fourth movement:

Arnold Symphony for Brass – mvmt 4 excerpt

Leonard Bernstein


A Renaissance man of the musical world, Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990) was a composer, conductor, writer, and also accomplished pianist. He is perhaps best known for his work from West Side Story and his time with the New York Philharmonic (quick tempi and all!). While his compositional output is tremendous, his work in the film genre is rather limited, with On the Waterfront as one such original film.

For brass instruments in a concert setting, Bernstein wrote Brass Music, which consists of five movements, the first four being for trumpet, horn, trombone, and tuba (respectively) with piano, and the final movement a brass quartet entitled Fanfare for Bima. Here is a short clip of the work:

Fanfare for Bima Excerpt

Michael Kamen


Michael Kamen (1948-2003) was a composer of primarily television and film music. His musical background is unique, although when compared to other film greats, follows similar trends. Kamen was part of a rock band, in which he performed, among other instruments, the oboe. Being well versed in pop music led him to be desirable as an arranger, which down the road led to his own compositional voice being able to be heard. As a comparison, Danny Elfman started off in a rock band, and John Williams started in a jazz combo, of which he was an arranger. His most notable film scores are from Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and The Three Musketeers, although music enthusiasts will often also known his work in Mr. Holland’s Opus.


While Kamen’s work was primarily for film, he composed several concert works, including his Quintet for brass. This piece was commissioned by the Canadian Brass, and was written just prior to his passing. Here is a video of the piece, as performed by the Canadian Brass:

Georges Delerue

Given my last two posts, I feel as though I am on a film composer kick, so why not continue the trend? Perhaps that will be the future direction of this blog. However, I feel as though many film composers do not actively pursue concert works on the side, so this theme may run its course soon. However, in the meantime, let’s explore the brass ensemble music of Georges Delerue!


Georges Delerue (1925-1992), was a French composer of film whose oeuvre consists of over 350 scores for film and numerous instrumental solo works, operas, and ballets.  Delerue, who moved to Los Angeles in 1982, is, like our last two composers, an Academy Award winner, for his score to A Little Romance.  He subsequently also contributed to the TV series Amazing Stories. Delerue wrote several pieces featuring brass, including:

Madrigal for trombone ensemble

Fanfares Pour Tous Les Temps for brass

Cérémonial for brass ensemble

Cérémonial was recorded on the album “Heroic & Ceremonial Music for Brass and Organ” by the London Gabrieli Brass Ensemble.  Here is an excerpt:


Bruce Broughton

Bruce Broughton (b. 1945) is an American composer of film, television, and concert music (as well as many other genres) whose musical influence, despite his relatively recent absence in the cinematic spotlight, is wide reaching.


My own personal experience with Broughton’s work started with his veritable cinematic masterpiece, Silverado.  Additionally, I grew up loving the music he composed for several Disney World attractions, such as Ellen’s Energy Adventure, Honey I Shrunk the Audience, and, Spaceship Earth, to name a few.  (As a side note his scores to the relatively short-lived series Amazing Stories are amusingly genius)

In regards to his works for brass ensemble, he has many works, including:

Excursions for Trumpet and Brass Band

Harlequin for Brass Band

A Frontier Overture for Brass Band

California Legend for Brass Band

Masters of Space and Time for Brass Band

Hornworks for Five Horns and Tuba

And the work which I am featuring today…

Fanfares, Marches, Hymns & Finale for Brass Ensemble and Percussion.

Fanfares… was written for the Bay Brass, and recorded on their CD “Sound the Bells.”  The piece consists of four movements, each with a style indicative of their respective titles.  It is a technically difficult work, but musically very rewarding.  Here is an excerpt:

Click Here to Listen