James O. Brockenshire and “Glory of the Trumpets”

Image result for james o brockenshire

James Opie Brockenshire (c. 1854-1938) was an English-born American army bandmaster and composer of music for military band.   Brockenshire was born in Cornwall, England, perhaps about 1854.  He immigrated at a young age to Pennsylvania.  His wife’s name may have been Emma.  He became a musician and bandmaster with the U. S. Army for over fifty years and wrote a number of pieces for military band.   The “Iroquois Club” March was published by R. Frank Barr of Martinsburg, WV, in 1892.   His “General Chaffee’s March” was published on Apr. 29, 1889, by Harry Coleman, Philadelphia, PA, for the US Military Academy at West Point, NY.  The Discography of American Historical Recordings lists two of his recordings, the 1907 “Gallant Seventh March” played by the Victor Drum, Fife, and Bugle Corps; and the 1910 “Little Sweetheart” played by Marshall P. Lufsky, piccolo solo, with orchestra.   Also he wrote “Batangas Adios” (Bolero for Wind Band) that was published on Aug. 10, 1910 by Carl Fischer, New York City, NY.   His career included postings in China, Cuba, and the Philippines.  Brockenshire died in Everett, WA, on Dec. 30, 1938, and was buried at Highland Cemetery in Junction, Kansas.

The following work by James O. Brockenshire is contained in my collection:

Glory of the Trumpets (1916).

Carolyn Bremer and “Early Light”


Carolyn Bremer (b. 1957) is an American composer.  She was born in 1957.  Bremer studied at Eastman and CalArts, and received the Ph.D. from UC Santa Barbara. Carolyn was Chair of Composition at the University of Oklahoma from 1991 to 2000 where she held the O’Brien Presidential Professorship.  Currently, Carolyn is Director of the Bob Cole Conservatory at Cal State Long Beach: she immensely loves her job. Bremer has been dubbed a composer “driven by hobgoblins of post modernist cant.” She came to composition on the heels of intensive training as an orchestral bassist and began to focus her musical talents on composition at the age of twenty-four. Her catalogue contains works based on feminist symbolism (Athene), baseball (Early Light), and popular culture (It Makes Me Nervewracking). Recently, Bremer has incorporated her photography and music into multimedia works.

It is easy to regard Carolyn Bremer as a “one hit wonder.” Early Light is a mainstay in the wind ensemble repertoire, receiving hundreds of performances each year. The original version for orchestra has been performed by professional orchestras including the Houston Symphony California Philharmonic, Chattanooga Symphony, Oklahoma City Philharmonic, Holland Symphony, and Waco Symphony among others. An up and coming name in the world of contemporary composers, Bremer has created this arresting transcription for band of her orchestral work of the same name. Bright, tonal, and uplifting, the composition is as joyous and as full of wonder as is the title.  The wind version has been performed at Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, for the 150th anniversary concert at WestPoint, and by the President’s Own Marine Band on the steps of the U.S. Capitol. It is recorded by over a dozen ensembles including the North Texas Winds and Heritage of American Band.

However, Bremer has also written thirteen other works for wind band.  Tibetan Singing Bowls play an ever-expanding role in Carolyn’s musical life. She and several colleagues perform interactive concerts in which the audiences listen to and then play the bowls. Singing bowls have informed her understanding of the experiential listening process and have led her to study the interaction of spacious, meditative listening, and composition. Other occasionally obsessive interests include landscape and concert photography, fountain pens and too many colors of ink, and just about any gadget made by Apple.

Bremer has had recent performances of her works at Carnegie Hall; in Germany, Norway, and Sweden; and for the gala 150th anniversary concert at West Point. Her commissions include the Symphony for Wind Band, premiered by Ray Cramer at Indiana University; Returns of the Day, premiered by Thomas Dvorak at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee; Pieces of Eight, premiered by the California State Honor band; Spark, premiered by Adam Brennan at Mansfield University; and Saturnalia, premiered by Calvin Hofer and the Mesa State Wind Symphony at the 2008 Best of the West Festival. Recent CDs include the El Paso Wind Symphony on Summit Records, the Heritage of American Band of the US Air Force, the Towson University Symphonic Band, and the Monarch Brass Ensemble.

My collection includes the following work by Carolyn Bremer:

Early Light (1995).

Luiz Bonfa and “Manha de Carnaval” from Black Orpheus


Luiz Floriano Bonfá (October 17, 1922 –January 12, 2001) was a Brazilian guitarist and composer, who was best known for the compositions he penned for the film Black Orpheus.  Bonfá was born on October 17, 1922, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He studied in Rio with Uruguayan classical guitarist Isaías Sávio from the age of 11. These weekly lessons entailed a long, harsh commute by train (2 1/2 hours one way) and on foot from his family home in Santa Cruz, the western rural outskirts of Rio de Janeiro to the teacher’s home in the hills of Santa Teresa. Given Bonfá’s extraordinary dedication and talent for the guitar, Sávio excused the youngster’s inability to pay for his lessons.  Bonfá first gained widespread exposure in Brazil in 1947 when he was featured on Rio’s Rádio Nacional, then an important showcase for up-and-coming talent. He was a member of the vocal group Quitandinha Serenaders in the late 1940s. Some of his first compositions, such as “Ranchinho de Palha” and “O Vento Não Sabe,” were recorded and performed by Brazilian crooner Dick Farney in the 1950s. Bonfá’s first hit song was “De Cigarro em Cigarro” recorded by Nora Ney in 1957.

It was through Farney that Bonfá was introduced to Antônio Carlos Jobim and Vinicius de Moraes, the leading songwriting team behind the worldwide explosion of Brazilian jazz/pop music in the late 1950s and 1960s. Bonfá collaborated with them and with other prominent Brazilian musicians and artists in productions of de Moraes’ anthological play Orfeu da Conceição, which several years later gave origin to Marcel Camus’ 1959 film Black Orpheus (Orfeu Negro in Portuguese). In the burgeoning days of Rio de Janeiro’s thriving jazz scene, it was commonplace for musicians, artists, and dramatists to collaborate in such theatrical presentations. Bonfá wrote some of the original music featured in the film, including the numbers “Samba de Orfeu” and his most famous composition, “Manhã de Carnaval” (for which Carl Sigman later wrote a different set of English lyrics titled “A Day in the Life of a Fool”), which has been among the top ten standards played worldwide, according to The Guinness Book of World Records.

As a composer and performer, Bonfá was at heart an exponent of the bold, lyrical, lushly orchestrated, and emotionally charged samba-canção style that predated the arrival of João Gilberto’s more refined and subdued bossa nova style. Jobim, João Donato, Dorival Caymmi, and other contemporaries were also essentially samba-canção musicians until the sudden, massive popularity of the young Gilberto’s unique style of guitar playing and expressively muted vocals transformed the music of the day into the music of the future. Camus’ film and Gilberto’s and Jobim’s collaborations with American jazzmen such as Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd did much to bring Brazilian popular music to the attention of the world, and Bonfá became a highly visible ambassador of Brazilian music in the United States beginning with the famous November 1962 Bossa Nova concert at New York’s Carnegie Hall.

Bonfa’s song “Seville” from his 1967 LP Luiz Bonfa Plays Great Songs was the basis for the hit Somebody That I Used To Know by Belgian-Australian musician Gotye. Gotye’s song charted No. 1 in 27 countries.  Bonfá worked with American musicians such as Quincy Jones, George Benson, Stan Getz, and Frank Sinatra, recording several albums while in U.S. Elvis Presley sang a Bonfá composition, “Almost in Love” with lyrics by Randy Starr in the 1968 MGM film Live a Little, Love a Little. Also of note is his “The Gentle Rain,” with lyrics by Matt Dubey, and “Sambolero.”  Bonfá died at age 78 in Rio de Janeiro on January 12, 2001.  In 2005, Smithsonian Folkways Recordings released an album of Bonfá’s work, entitled Solo in Rio 1959, which included previously unreleased material from the original recording session.  In 2008, Universal Music France released a coffee table book containing two CDs which included previously unreleased material of the Black Orpheus soundtrack, and a DVD. Also in 2008, Universal Music released The Brazilian Scene, Braziliana and Black Orpheus celebrating the 50th anniversary of the bossa nova.

Bonfá’s major legacy continues to be his compositions from the Black Orpheus soundtrack, most notably the instantly recognizable bossa nova classic “Manhã de Carnaval.”  But Bonfá’s discography also attests to his uniquely inventive mastery of Brazilian jazz guitar. Bonfá’s guitar style was brassier and more penetrating than that of his major contemporary, João Gilberto, and Bonfá was a frequent and adept soloist whereas Gilberto plays his own suave, intricate brand of rhythm guitar almost exclusively. Bonfá often played solo guitar in a polyphonic style, harmonizing melody lines in a manner similar to that made famous by Wes Montgomery in the USA, or playing lead and rhythm parts simultaneously. As a composer and as a guitarist, Bonfá played a pivotal role in bridging the incumbent samba-canção style with the innovations of the bossa nova movement.

The following work by Luiz Bonfa is contained in my collection:

Black Orpheus: Manha de Carnaval.

Scott Boerma and Fanfare for a Golden Sky

Boerma 2014-1

Scott Boerma (born 1964) is a composer of contemporary classical music, an arranger of music for marching ensembles, and the Director of Bands at Western Michigan University.   Boerma was born in 1964.  He received his Bachelor of Music degree in music education at Western Michigan University, where he studied composition with Ramon Zupko and his Master of Music degree in music education at the University of Michigan, where he studied composition with Pulitzer-Prize winning composer William Bolcom.  Boerma earned his Doctor of Musical Arts degree in wind conducting at Michigan State University.   He has also studied composition with Anthony Iannaccone at Eastern Michigan University.

Boerma began his career teaching music in the Michigan public schools at Novi and Lamphere High Schools.  Then he was Director of Bands at Eastern Michigan University.  Also he was Associate Director of Bands, Director of the Michigan Marching Band, and the Donald R. Shepherd Associate Professor of Conducting at the University of Michigan before joining the Western Michigan University faculty as the Director of Bands and Professor of Music at Western Michigan, where he conducts the University Symphonic Band and Western Winds.

An active composer, Boerma’s concert band works have been performed by many outstanding ensembles, including “The President’s Own” Marine Band, the Dallas Wind Symphony, the University of North Texas Wind Symphony, the Tokyo Kosei Wind Orchestra, the University of Illinois Wind Symphony, the University of Michigan Symphony and Concert Bands, the Interlochen Arts Camp High School Symphonic Band, and the BOA Honor Band of America, to name just a few. His music has been heard in such venues as Carnegie Hall, Hill Auditorium, the Myerson Symphony Center, the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, and at the Chicago Midwest International Band and Orchestra Clinic. Boerma’s works have been featured in the popular GIA series, “Teaching Music Through Performance in Band.” He is commissioned each year by high school, university and community bands to write new works for the repertoire. Boerma’s work Poem, a tribute to Bernie Kuschel, was recorded on the CD 2007 WASBE Killarney Ireland by the Dublin Concert Band.

Also a prolific arranger, Boerma receives yearly commissions to write music for many university and high school marching bands and drum and bugle corps. From 1989-2006 and from 2014-present, he has been the music arranger for the top-ranking Madison Scouts Drum and Bugle Corps. From 2008-2013, he arranged for the Spirit of Atlanta Drum & Bugle Corps. Additionally, Boerma has arranged for drum and bugle corps and bands from Japan, United Kingdom, The Netherlands, and Thailand. Other credits include marching band arrangements for the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, the University of Texas (both Austin and Arlington), the University of Illinois, Purdue University, Towson University, Texas Tech University, Baylor University, Jacksonville State University, and Western Michigan University, to name just a few. Most of the Big Ten university marching bands have performed Boerma’s arrangements. Boerma also writes arrangements for the Detroit Chamber Winds Brass and the Boston Pops.  Many of Boerma’s works are published by the Neil A. Kjos Music Company, Boosey and Hawkes, Carl Fischer Music, Theodore Presser, Arrangers’ Publishing Company and, Madison Music Works.

Boerma is active as a band/orchestra conductor, adjudicator, and clinician. He serves as a guest conductor for several honor bands and community bands throughout the nation each year, including the Music For All Summer Symposium Concert Band, the Florida State University Tri-State Band, the Michigan Youth Arts Festival State High School Honor Band, the Kappa Kappa Psi/Tau Beta Sigma Intercollegiate Band, the University of Wisconsin Summer Music Clinic Honor Band, and the Michigan All-State Middle School Band, to name just a few. Boerma has given composing, arranging, adjudication, and educational clinics at conferences including the Michigan Music Conference in Ann Arbor and Grand Rapids, Michigan, the CBDNA North Central Division Conference in Omaha, Nebraska, and the BOA Summer Symposium in Normal, Illinois. He conducts the Detroit Chamber Winds Brass holiday and summer DSO Concerts, and he served for several years as conductor of one of the Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp High School Bands in Twin Lake, Michigan.

Boerma is an elected member of the prestigious American Bandmasters Association. He is the president of the Mid-American Conference Band Directors Association, and he is the Michigan state chair for the College Band Directors National Association, for which he is also a member of its Constitution Task Force. He is also a member of WASBE, NBA, ASBDA, ASCAP, MSBOA, Phi Mu Alpha Professional Music Fraternity, Pi Kappa Lambda National Music Honor Society, and an honorary member of Kappa Kappa Psi and Tau Beta Sigma Band Fraternities.

My collection includes the following work by Scott Boerma:

Fanfare for a Golden Sky (2000).

I Want to Quit (But I Won’t)

I Want to Quit! (But I Won’t)
by Deborah Wuehler, The Old Schoolhouse Senior Editor

There is probably at least one day a month or more that I want to say, “I Quit!” to something in my life. Whether it be teaching, cleaning, cooking, transporting, marriage issues, or disciplining a child. We all share the same thoughts and feelings. That feeling of wanting to quit probably stems from a lack of peace. Because of the difficult (or tiring or boring) circumstances in our life, we lose our peace, and therefore feel that if we quit, we will find that peace. But, peace won’t magically come in a change of circumstance. You will still be you wrestling with you. However, I have found the way to find peace!

Here is what the living Word of God says: “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee. Trust ye in the LORD forever: for in the LORD JEHOVAH is everlasting strength” (Isaiah 26:3, 4).

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Hermann L. Blankenburg and the “Flying Eagle” March


Hermann Ludwig Blankenburg (November 14, 1876–May 15, 1956) was a German composer of military marches. Blankenburg was born on November 14, 1876, at Thamsbrück, in Bad Langensalza, Germany, the only son of three children of Johann Heinrich and Ernestine Friederike Koch Blankenburg. He was born with the middle name Louis but changed it to Ludwig later in life perhaps as a connection to Beethoven. Raised on a sheep farm in Thamsbrücke, he was expected to someday manage the farm. However, he showed a propensity for music starting with performing on the piccolo – a favorite instrument his entire life. His family agreed on his studying music as long as he promised to serve in the army for twelve years.

Blankenburg taught himself to play various instruments including bassoon, tuba, and violin and he conducted his school orchestra at the age of ten. He served actively in the military for two years 1896-1898, performing tuba in the band of the 6th Field Artillery Regiment in Breslau. After that his only service was prior to and during the early years of World War I in reserve bands. He married Magdalena Weidmann in Germersheim in 1898.  A march he wrote when he was eighteen was submitted years later, in 1904, to Hawkes  and Son for a march competition. Hawkes selected his march from over 500 submitted as first prize with the proviso the title could be changed from “Deutschlands Fürsten” (Germany’s Princes) to “The Gladiators’ Farewell” (Abschied der Gladiatoren). The march became popular, and Hawkes (later Boosey and Hawkes) would publish several more including “Adlerflug,” “Festjubel,” “Territorial,” and “Mein Regiment” (the latter said to be the composer’s own favorite march).

In 1913 Blankenburg performed tuba in Field Artillery Regiment No. 43 in Wesel until 1915 when he got a medical discharge. He remained in Wesel for the rest of his life.  He played in and conducted community bands as well as performing in the orchestras in Dortmund, Wuppertal and Duisburg. He also worked as a bricklayer and a policeman for a short time. Blankenburg is likely the most prolific march composer in history. For twenty years he composed at least one march a week. His one thousandth march was composed in 1928: “Der Tausendkünstler” (Jack of All Trades), dedicated to fellow composer Paul Lincke.  In the 1920s and 30s his marches attained European fame. Instead of accepting commissions, he composed marches when inspired.

Blankenburg continued to compose marches for another 20 years after this.  He numbered his march compositions at 1,328, but he was careless in assigning opus numbers or in completing compositions. He also renamed some older marches with new titles. The highest opus number discovered is 1275 (for the march “Semper Paratus” likely published in 1936) and the lowest is 9 (for “Fliegerhelden Marsch”). There are long gaps in the sequence of opus numbers and many marches have no opus number assigned. At least 300 of his marches were published by thirty different publishers, but many more are lost or destroyed. Over 100 of Blankenburg’s marches were recorded in the Heritage of the March series.

After World War II Blankenburg’s compositional efforts dropped off. Despite the presence of military titles for many of his marches and his short military band service, his compositions were never accorded official recognition by Germany’s military authorities.  His marches are all in the characteristic German style and he was fond of writing soaring euphonium countermelodies which required a highly competent euphonium section prepared to perform in the upper register of the instrument. His marches also stressed the piccolo, clarinet, and cornet sections.  At the age of 60, he was made an honorary citizen of Thamsbrück.   A few months before his 81st birthday, Blankenburg intended to compose another march, but he died in Wesel, Germany, on May 15, 1956, before accomplishing this.

The following work by Hermann L. Blankenburg is contained in my collection:

Flying Eagle (1914).

Weymouth School, Medina, OH


Weymouth Preservation Society School

3314 Myers Road

Medina, Ohio

The Weymouth Preservation Society, founded in 2012, is dedicated to preserving the history and enhancing the beauty of our historic Western Reserve village. The society has restored the historic 1925 Weymouth School into a museum with exhibits of local history. It is open the second Sunday of every month from 2-4 or by appointment.  Nestled in the nearly 200-year-old Medina Township neighborhood known as Weymouth, Ohio, it is the first public school in Ohio dedicated to the education of children with disabilities.  That historical milestone in education has been cast in bronze. An Ohio Historical Marker is located in front of the picturesque brick building at Remsen and Myers roads, in the sleepy blocks just off the harried Ohio 3 and Interstate 71 interchange.

The bronze sign reads, “Built with the funds and labor of residents of Weymouth, this structure was home to the Weymouth School from 1925 to 1956. It was designed in the Colonial Revival style by Cleveland architect Paul T. Cahill (1888 – 1954). Two classrooms accommodated students from grades one through eight and an auditorium served both the children and the community.

“In 1953, a school for disabled children was established in St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Medina by their friends and families. It moved into the vacant Weymouth School building in 1956. In 1960, Medina County citizens passed a levy to operate it as the first county-supported school for disabled students in the state. Later known as the Achievement Center, it continued at this site until 1992.”

Ohio legislators didn’t mandate that counties educate disabled children until 1967, seven years after Medina County citizens passed their levy for the school.   And even more history survives in Weymouth all around the brick school building.  Across the narrow street are two one-room schoolhouses built in 1829 and 1840. They have been transformed into homes. Around the corner, at Old Weymouth and Frantz roads, is another private residence that first served as Weymouth School from the 1870s through 1924.  Weymouth also had a one-room schoolhouse built of logs in 1817, but it was lost to decay.

http://www.weymouthpreservationsociety.com .

Heinrich von Biber and the Battalia for Violin, Strings, and Basso Continuo in DM


Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber (baptized August 12, 1644 –May 3, 1704) was a Bohemian-Austrian composer and violinist, one of the most important composers for the violin in the history of the instrument who worked in Graz and Kremsier (now Kroměříž) before he illegally left his Kremsier employer, Prince-Bishop Carl Liechtenstein-Kastelkorn, and settled in Salzburg, where he remained for the rest of his life, publishing much of his music but apparently seldom, if ever, giving concert tours.  Biber was born in the small town of Wartenberg, Bohemia (now Stráž pod Ralskem, Czech Republic and baptised on August 12, 1644.   Little is known about his early education, other than that he may have studied at a Jesuit Gymnasium at Troppau in Bohemia, and that he may have had musical education by a local organist.

Before 1668 Biber worked at the court of Prince Johann Seyfried von Eggenberg in Graz, and then was employed by the Bishop of Olmütz, Karl II von Liechtenstein-Kastelkorn, in Kremsier. Biber’s associate from the early 1660s, Pavel Josef Vejvanovský, worked there as director of the Kapelle. Biber apparently enjoyed a good reputation, and his violin playing skills were very highly regarded.  In summer 1670 Karl II sent Biber to Absam, near Innsbruck, to negotiate with the celebrated instrument maker Jacob Stainer for the purchase of new instruments for the Kapelle.   Biber never reached Stainer, however, and instead entered the employ of the Archbishop of Salzburg, Maximilian Gandolph von Kuenburg.  Because Karl and Maximilian were friends, Biber’s former employer refrained from taking any action; he was, however, very hurt by the composer’s decision, and waited until 1676 to officially issue his release papers. It is not coincidental that most of the autograph compositions Biber sent to Kremsier date from the early 1670s. Biber remained in Salzburg for the rest of his life.

Biber was married on May 30, 1672, at the Bishop’s summer residence, Hellbrunn Palace, just outside Salzburg. His wife Maria Weiss was a daughter of a Salzburg merchant, citizen and tradesman, Peter Weiss. Together they had 11 children, four of whom survived to adulthood.  All were musically gifted. Anton Heinrich (1679–1742) and Karl Heinrich (1681–1749) both served as violinists at the Salzburg court, and the latter was promoted to Kapellmeister in 1743. Daughters Maria Cäcilia (born 1674) and Anna Magdalena (1677–1742) became nuns at Santa Clara, Merano, and the Nonnberg Abbey, respectively. Anna Magdalena was an alto singer and a violinist, and in 1727 became director of the choir and the Kapelle of the Abbey.   Biber’s musical and social careers flourished: he started publishing his music in 1676,

Biber’s finest scordatura writing is represented in two collections. The first dates from c. 1676 and is known variously as Mystery Sonatas, Rosary Sonatas (Mysterien Sonaten, Die Rosenkranz-Sonaten), Copper-Plate Engraving Sonatas, etc., remaining unpublished during the composer’s lifetime. It comprises sixteen pieces: fifteen sonatas for violin and continuo portraying the fifteen Mysteries of the Rosary, and a long passacaglia for solo violin. In the extant copy of the collection, each piece is accompanied by a small engraving depicting the mystery it portrays, while the image (an ink drawing) preceding the passacaglia depicts a guardian angel with a child. Only the first and the last pieces use normal tuning; all others employ some form of scordatura.  The sonatas were dedicated to Maximilian Gandolph von Khuenburg, whom Biber addresses in the preface.

Biber performed before the Emperor Leopold I and was rewarded by him in 1677, becoming deputy Kapellmeister at Salzburg in 1679 and Kapellmeister in 1684.  Biber’s other published collections of instrumental music are Sonatae tam aris quam aulis servientes (1676), Mensa sonora (1680), and Fidicinium sacro profanum (1682/3).  Some other pieces to use scordatura are two of the sonatas included in Sonatae violino solo of 1681. That collection comprises eight sonatas for violin and basso continuo, all noted already by Charles Burney in late 18th century, for the brilliant virtuosic passages and elaborate structures. In contrast to both Mystery Sonatas and Harmonia, these works consist mostly of pieces in free forms (prelude, aria) or variations, rather than dances.    Unlike most composers for the violin, Biber did not limit himself to music for the instrument. He was also a prolific composer of sacred vocal works: masses, requiems, motets, etc. Many of those were polychoral and employing large instrumental forces, inspired by the possibilities of the spacious interior of the Salzburg Cathedral.

Among Biber’s polychoral works, Missa Salisburgensis (1682) is the best known. An expansive setting of the mass for sixteen voices and 37 instrumentalists (i.e. 53 parts total), it was previously attributed to Orazio Benevoli, but today Biber’s authorship is certain. The instrumentation includes not only string ensembles, but also oboes, cornetts, trumpets, and timpani. Among his many polychoral works are Plaudite tympana à 53 (1682) Vesperae à 32 (1693), Missa Bruxellensis (1696) and Missa Sancti Henrici (1697), which was composed for the occasion of the taking of the veil by his second daughter, Anna Magdalena, at Nonnberg Abbey in Salzburg. In tribute to the Emperor Henry II, the second founding saint of the convent, she took the name Maria Rosa Henrica when her novitiate began in 1696. The Mass of Saint Henry is scored for a five-voice choir with two soprano lines and an orchestra of two violins, three violas, two trumpets, timpani and continuo, with optional extra trumpets and sackbuts to double the voice parts.  Although Biber is best known for the massive polychoral works, he was also capable of writing for smaller forces. Missa quadragesimalis is a simple a cappella setting (with only a continuo part provided) for four voices, as is the Stabat Mater.

In 1690 Biber was raised to nobility by the Emperor, with the title of Biber von Bibern. Finally, the new Archbishop of Salzburg, Johann Ernst, Count Thun, appointed Biber lord high steward, the highest social rank Biber would attain.  On November 3, 1692, Biber was appointed Steward by his Archbishop Johann Ernst. He then received his Coat of arms.  The second work in which Biber explored scordatura techniques is Harmonia artificioso-ariosa (1696), his last known published collection of instrumental music. It contains seven partitas for two instruments and basso continuo: five for two violins, one for two violas d’amore, and one for violin and viola. Six of the partitas require scordatura tunings, including those for viola and two violas d’amore; Biber utilises the full potential of the technique, including all possibilities for complex polyphony: some of the pieces are in five parts, with both of the melodic instruments carrying two. Interestingly, no other chamber works by Biber use such devices.  Biber died in Salzburg on May 3, 1704, and his grave is located in Petersfriedhof.

My collection includes the following works by Heinrich von Biber:

Battalia for Violin, Strings, and Basso Continuo in DM.

Mensa Sonora: Pars 1 in DM.

Mensa Sonora: Pars 2 in FM.

Mensa Sonora: Pars 3 in am.

Mensa Sonora: Pars 4 in BbM.

Mensa Sonora: Pars 5 in EM.

Mensa Sonora: Pars 6 in gm.

Franz Berwald and his symphonies


Franz Adolf Berwald (July 23, 1796 –April 3, 1868) was a Swedish Romantic composer, who made his living as an orthopedic surgeon and later as the manager of a saw mill and glass factory, and became more appreciated as a composer after his death than he had been in his lifetime.  Berwald was born July 23, 1796, in Stockholm, Sweden, and came from a family with four generations of musicians; his father, a violinist in the Royal Opera Orchestra, taught Franz the violin from an early age; he soon appeared in concerts. In 1809, Karl XIII came to power and reinstated the Royal Chapel; the following year Berwald started working there, as well as playing the violin in the court orchestra and the opera, receiving lessons from Edouard du Puy, and also started composing. The summers were off-season for the orchestra, and Berwald travelled around Scandinavia, Finland and Russia. Of his works from that time, a septet and a serenade he still considered worthwhile music in his later years.

In 1818 Berwald started publishing the Musikalisk journal, later renamed Journal de musique, a periodical with easy piano pieces and songs by various composers as well as some of his own original work. In 1821, his Violin Concerto was premiered by his brother August. It was not well received; some people in the audience burst out laughing during the slow movement.  His family got into dire economic circumstances after the death of his father in 1825. Berwald tried to get several scholarships, but only got one from the King, which enabled him to study in Berlin, where he worked hard on operas despite not having any chance to put them on the stage. To make a living, Berwald started an orthopedic and physiotherapy clinic in Berlin in 1835, which turned out to be profitable. Some of the orthopedic devices he invented were still in use decades after his death.

Berwald stopped composing during his time in Berlin, resuming only in 1841 with a move to Vienna and marriage to Mathilde Scherer. In 1842 a concert of his tone poems at the Redoutensaal at the Hofburg Imperial Palace received extremely positive reviews, and over the course of the next three years Berwald wrote four symphonies. These were not the first symphonies he wrote. Numerous major works from the 1820s have gone missing, and the torso of a Symphony in A’s first movement remains, has been finished, and recorded.  The Symphony No. 1 in G minor, “Sérieuse,” was the only one of Berwald’s four symphonies that was performed in his lifetime. In 1843, it was premiered in Stockholm with his cousin Johan Frederik conducting the Royal Opera House Orchestra. At that same concert, his operetta Jag går i kloster (I enter a monastery) was also performed, but its success is credited to one of the roles having been sung by Jenny Lind.  In 1846, Jenny Lind sang in one of Berwald’s cantatas.  Another operetta, The Modiste, had less success in 1845.

Berwald’s music was not recognised favorably in Sweden during his lifetime, even drawing hostile newspaper reviews, but fared a little better in Germany and Austria. The Mozarteum Salzburg made him an honorary member in 1847.  When Berwald returned to Sweden in 1849, he managed a glass works at Sandö in Ångermanland owned by Ludvig Petré, an amateur violinist. During that time Berwald focused his attention on producing chamber music.  Berwald’s Piano Concerto, finished in 1855, intended for his piano pupil Hilda Aurora Thegerström, who continued her studies with Antoine François Marmontel and Franz Liszt, did not see the light of day until 1904, when Berwald’s granddaughter Astrid performed it at a Stockholm student concert. Particularly in its brilliant last movement it may be compared favorably to Robert Schumann or Edvard Grieg. Its three movements are played without a break.

One of his few operas to be staged in his lifetime, Estrella de Soria, was heartily applauded at its premiere at the Royal Theater in April 1862, and was given four more performances in the same month. Following this success, he wrote Drottningen av Golconda (The Queen of Golconda), which would have been premiered in 1864, but was not, due to a change of directors at the Royal Opera.  In 1866, Berwald received the Swedish Order of the Polar Star, in recognition of his musical achievements. The following year, the Board of the Royal Musical Academy appointed Berwald professor of musical composition at the Stockholm Conservatory, only to have the Conservatory Board reverse the decision a few days later, and appoint another. The royal family stepped in, and Berwald got the post. At around that time he was also given many important commissions, but he did not live to fulfill them all.  Berwald died on April 3, 1868, Stockholm in 1868 of pneumonia and was interred there in the Norra begravningsplatsen (Northern Cemetery). The second movement of the Symphony No. 1 was played at his funeral.

Ten years after Berwald’s death, his Symphony No. 4 in E-flat major, “Naïve”, was premiered in 1878 (the originally planned 1848 premiere in Paris having been cancelled because of the political unrest of the time). This gap between composition and first performance was relatively short, however, compared to what befell the Symphony No. 2 in D major, “Capricieuse” and Symphony No. 3 in C major, “Singulière.” Those two pieces were not premiered until 1914 and 1905, respectively.  Composers Ludvig Norman, Tor Aulin, and Wilhelm Stenhammar worked hard to promote Berwald’s music. In 1911, Carl Nielsen wrote of Berwald, “Neither the media, money nor power can damage or benefit good Art. It will always find some simple, decent artists who forge ahead and produce and stand up for their works. In Sweden, you have the finest example of this: Berwald.”  The Swedish conductor and composer Ulf Björlin has recorded various works of Berwald under the EMI Classics label.

The following works by Franz Berwald are contained in my collection:

Estrella de Soria (1841): Overture.

The Queen of Golconda (1864): Overture.

Symphony in AM (1820).

Symphony No. 1 in GM, Sinfonie serieuse (1842).

Symphony No, 2 in DM, Sinfonie capricieuse (1842).

Symphony No. 3 in CM, Sinfornie singuliere (1845).

Symphony No 4 in EbM, Sinfonie naïve (1845).

Elmer Bernstein and The Magnificent Seven


Elmer Bernstein (April 4, 1922 – August 18, 2004) was an American composer and conductor who is best known for his many hundreds of film and television film scores, including the scores to The Magnificent Seven, The Ten Commandments, The Great Escape, To Kill a Mockingbird, Ghostbusters, The Black Cauldron, Airplane!, The Rookies, Cape Fear, Animal House, and The Age of Innocence. Bernstein was born on April 4, 1922, to a Jewish family in New York City, NY,, the son of Edward Bernstein (1896-1968) from Austria-Hungary , and Selma (née Feinstein) Bernstein (1901-1991) from Ukraine. He was not related to the celebrated composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein; but the two men were friends, and even shared a certain physical similarity. Within the world of professional music, they were distinguished from each other by the use of the nicknames Bernstein West (Elmer) and Bernstein East (Leonard). They pronounced their last names differently; Elmer pronounced his (BERN-steen), and Leonard’s was (BERN-stine).

During his childhood, Bernstein performed professionally as a dancer and an actor, in the latter case playing the part of Caliban in The Tempest on Broadway, and he also won several prizes for his painting. He attended Manhattan’s progressive Walden School and gravitated toward music at the age of twelve, at which time he was given a scholarship in piano by Henriette Michelson, a Juilliard teacher who guided him throughout his entire career as a pianist. She took him to play some of his improvisations for composer Aaron Copland, who was encouraging and selected Israel Citkowitz as a teacher for the young boy.  Bernstein’s music has some stylistic similarities to Copland’s music, most notably in his western scores, particularly sections of Big Jake, in the Gregory Peck film Amazing Grace and Chuck, and in his spirited score for the 1958 film adaptation of Erskine Caldwell’s novel God’s Little Acre.

Having studied composition under Aaron Copland, Roger Sessions, and Stefan Wolpe, Bernstein also performed as a concert pianist between 1939 and 1950 and wrote numerous classical compositions, including three orchestral suites, two song cycles, various compositions for viola and piano and for solo piano, and a string quartet.

In the early 1950s, Bernstein found himself composing music for movies such as Robot Monster and Cat-Women of the Moon, a step down from his earlier Sudden Fear and Saturday’s Hero.  Bernstein wrote the theme songs or other music for more than 200 films and TV shows, including The Magnificent Seven, The Great Escape, The Ten Commandments (1956), True Grit, The Man with the Golden Arm, To Kill a Mockingbird, Robot Monster, and the fanfare used in the National Geographic television specials.   Bernstein also provided the score to many of the short films of Ray and Charles Eames.  Throughout his life, Bernstein demonstrated an enthusiasm for an even wider spectrum of the arts than his childhood interests would imply and, in 1959, when he was scoring The Story on Page One, he considered becoming a novelist and asked the film’s screenwriter, Clifford Odets, to give him lessons in writing fiction.

In 1961 Bernstein co-founded Äva Records an American record label based in Los Angeles together with Fred Astaire, Jackie Mills and Tommy Wolf.  In addition to his film music, Bernstein wrote the scores for two Broadway musicals, How Now, Dow Jones, with lyricist Carolyn Leigh, in 1967 and Merlin, with lyricist Don Black, in 1983.  One of Bernstein’s tunes has since gained a lasting place in U.S. college sports culture. In 1968, University of South Carolina football head coach Paul Dietzel wrote new lyrics to “Step to the Rear,” from How Now, Dow Jones. The South Carolina version of the tune, “The Fighting Gamecocks Lead the Way,” has been the school’s fight song ever since.  John Landis requested that Bernstein compose the music for National Lampoon’s Animal House, over the studio’s objections.  Bernstein accepted the job, and it sparked a second wave in his career, where he continued to compose music for high-profile comedies such as Ghostbusters, Stripes, Airplane! and The Blues Brothers, as well as most of Landis’s films for the next 15 years, including the famed music video to the Michael Jackson song “Thriller.”

When Martin Scorsese announced that he was re-making Cape Fear, Bernstein adapted Bernard Herrmann’s original score to the new film. Scorsese and Bernstein subsequently worked together on two more films, The Age of Innocence (1993) and Bringing Out the Dead (1999). Bernstein had previously conducted Herrmann’s original unused score for Alfred Hitchcock’s 1966 Torn Curtain.

Bernstein was a professor at the University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music and conductor of the San Fernando Valley Symphony in the early 1970s.  In addition, as president of the Young Musicians Foundation, Bernstein became acquainted with classical guitarist Christopher Parkening and wrote a Concerto for Guitar and Orchestra, which Parkening recorded with the London Symphony Orchestra under Bernstein’s baton for the Angel label in 1999.   Over the course of his career, Bernstein received 14 Academy Award nominations and was nominated at least once per decade from the 1950s until the 2000s, but his only win was for Thoroughly Modern Millie for Best Original Music Score.  In 1963, he won the Emmy for Excellence in Television for his score of the documentary The Making of The President 1960.  He was recognized by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association with two Golden Globe Awards for his scores for To Kill a Mockingbird and Hawaii. and Golden Globe.  In addition, he was nominated for the Tony Award three times for the Broadway musicals How Now Dow Jones and Merlin and a Grammy Award five times, and was the recipient of Western Heritage Awards for The Magnificent Seven (1960) and The Hallelujah Trail (1965).

Additional honors included Lifetime achievement awards from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), the Society for the Preservation of Film Music, the USA, Woodstock, Santa Barbara, Newport Beach and Flanders International Film Festivals and the Foundation for a Creative America.  In 1996, Bernstein was honored with a star on Hollywood Boulevard.  In 1999, he received an Honorary Doctorate of Music from Five Towns College in New York City and was honored by the American Film Institute in Los Angeles. Bernstein again was honored by ASCAP with its marquee Founders Award in 2001 and with the NARAS Governors Award in June 2004.  Bernstein made his home in Hope Ranch in Santa Barbara, California, in the 1990s and died of cancer in his sleep at his Ojai, California, home on August 18, 2004, following a lengthy illness.  He left behind his wife, Eve, two sons Peter and Gregory, and two daughters, Emilie and Elizabeth. He had five grandchildren at the time of his death.

My collection includes the following works by Elmer Bernstein:

The Age of Innocence (1993): Theme.

The Great Escape (1963): Main Title.

The Magnificent Seven (1960): Main Theme.

The Man with the Golden Arm (1955): Main Theme.