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Two Hundred Years of Woodwinds #2

This 1959 series features members of The Philadelphia Woodwind Quintet, made up of flute, oboe, clarinet, French horn, and bassoon. The musicians play a piece, then break it down in order to show how their instruments evoke certain images through music. They also explain the history of the instruments and how they were grouped - eventually culminating in the modern day quintet.

AIRED: October 13, 2020 | 0:29:34
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TRANSCRIPT

Welcome to the All Arts Vault. I'm Maddie Orton.

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That trumpet call, announcing an important event,

was played from the top of the tower

two centuries ago.

When those brass players came down to earth

and mingled with the woodwinds in making music,

they brought with them their own trumpet-like tunes.

Now, those four notes that you heard

Mozart used in the opening of his Divertimento No. 14.

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That was Mozart's Divertimento No. 14

for woodwinds.

One might have heard it at a garden party in Salzburg

in the 18th century.

Now, that trumpet player who was left up in the belfry

was part of a complex of music

called tower music.

At the end of the 17th century in Germany,

trumpet players and trombone players formed guilds,

royally supported.

Every small village even had their own sort of town band

like we have town bands today.

These fellows were called stadtpfeifer, or town pipers.

They had several duties.

They would play chorales from the church belfry,

they would play secular music from City Hall at noon,

and they would make themselves available

for all sorts of municipal ceremonies.

Among these were festivals, parades,

processions of guilds.

It could be that a city father

with enough influence

would get some of the boys to play at his daughter's wedding.

The most famous of these players was Johann Pezel,

stadtpfeifer at Leipzig and Bautzen.

His fame endures, however,

because of the many compositions

he wrote for brass instruments.

These are still played today.

And today, in the city of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania,

the citizens can still enjoy tower music

when they listen to their famous Moravian trombone choir,

which plays from a church tower.

In 1958, when we visited Poland

with the Philadelphia Orchestra,

the members of our brass section were especially fascinated

by the trumpeter of Kraków.

This player renders a trumpet call

every hour in four directions

from the top of the tower of Church of St. Mary.

Now, this tradition has been going on since the middle ages,

the longest consecutive broadcast in history.

[ Chuckles ]

I well remember travelling up hundreds of steps

to see as well as to hear this fellow play.

Although he was outfitted in a military uniform,

I could imagine how he looked in those medieval days

amidst an invading army,

perhaps with arrows coming to him,

still faithfully playing this trumpet call.

Now, all this activity in brass music

was of a civic nature,

and it was the province of the woodwinds

to perform in social functions.

The horns did get into the act.

Their tone was soft enough so that they were allowed

occasionally to play with woodwinds.

Mason you've been speaking a brass instruments.

My instrument, the clarinet, which is a woodwind instrument,

derives its name from a brass instrument --

the clarino, which was a high-pitched trumpet.

In those days, the comparatively new instrument, the clarinet,

sounded from a distance very much like the clarino.

Consequently, it was called clarinetto,

which in Italian means "little clarino."

Because of the range and flexibility of the clarinet,

it became, as we know it today,

the most important instrument in a band.

Some of the most beautiful music

written for a band or a wind ensemble

was the group of six feldpatitas

composed by Joseph Haydn

for the military band of Prince Esterházy,

who was his patron or sponsor.

The feldpatitas, or field serenades,

were composed for an octet of wind instruments

and were meant to be played in the open air.

As I think of how eight men were taken from the Esterházy band

to play for a picnic or some sort of an outdoor function,

it can't help but remind me of some similar experience

in my own life.

During the war, I played in a Navy band

on an aircraft carrier, and there were many occasions

when we were asked to break up into small units

and play for all sorts of functions.

Of course, most of the music we played in the band

was not nearly as beautiful

as our favorite Haydn feldpatita --

No. 1 in B flat.

The first movement is a bouncing allegro con spirito.

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As Tony mentioned, this divertimento

is probably the best known of all Haydn divertimenti,

and I'm sure the fame for this particular one comes from

the second movement -- the next movement.

That is the "St. Anthony Chorale."

This is, of course, the same chorale

that we've chosen for the theme for our series.

Joseph Haydn wrote this music,

but I think it's safe to say

that it was Brahms 100 years later

who was responsible for making it famous, really,

throughout the Western world.

He was naturally very much taken with the beauty of the music,

but he was also intrigued

by a little peculiarity in the form.

You see, during the 18th century, most all music

was written in even number of bars in the phrase.

That is, two bars or four bars

or multiples of 4, 8, 12, and 16.

But Haydn wrote this chorale

in the five-bar phrases,

which was quite unusual to use this uneven number.

Bob would you play the oboe part here.

I want to show how this works.

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Now, that's just the first the five bars

of a 10-bar period.

And one of the even more unusual features of this

is that you can take out one of the bars --

and it could be either the second or the third bar,

but we'll take out this third bar --

and you'll have a section

which is the conventional four-bar phrase,

and you put this together and you have an eight-bar period.

And it, of course, sounds different

but it's very interesting to hear how it sounds.

Bob?

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Well, Brahms took this very beautiful little melody

and he wrote a series of variations for two pianos

which he later orchestrated.

And in this symphonic form,

it, of course, has become so famous

and is a standard favorite in symphonic programs.

Now, we're going to play it

in our woodwind arrangement, of course,

with the five-bar phrase as it's written.

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Well, it's certainly easy to see how Brahms was taken

with such a really lovely little melody

and also how was able to make something

so wonderful out of it.

He had some pretty wonderful material to start with.

This divertimento was originally scored

for two oboes, two horns,

three bassoons,

and a serpent.

[ Chuckles ]

Now, this isn't a serpent from the Garden of Eden

-Looks old enough. -Well, yes, it is.

No question about that.

But this is an instrument

that comes from 16th century France and England

where it was used mostly

in accompaniment with choral groups.

They played along with the bass line

to keep the bases sort of from getting off the track

and also to reinforce them a little bit.

And it was also used a great deal in outdoor bands,

such as the one for which this divertimento was written.

But this is one of the many, many instruments of that period

that proved to be cumbersome

and just didn't seem to do the job

that composers wanted them to do,

and it was left along the wayside

in this evolution of wind instruments.

Now, we don't happen to have any serpent players handy,

so we like to play this divertimento

in our own arrangement

for the modern woodwind medium

that is the woodwind quintet as we see it here today.

The next movement of this divertimento

is a lively little minuet.

And like all minuets, it has its trio,

which is the leftover or relic from the Trio Sonata

that we talked about in our first program.

And then we will go right on

without stopping to the last movement,

which is a very happy kind of marching rondo,

and you will hear how Haydn closes this last movement

using a few bars

from this chorale that we've just played.

Now we will play the third movement.

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Robert: This Haydn divertimento was written as field music,

probably for a picnic, a barbecue,

or some other outdoor festivity.

But about the same time, some woodwind musicians

were invited to move indoors

for tafelmusik, or table music.

Our opening Mozart allegro was written as table music

by the Salzburg court.

Table music was intended to be played

while the feast was being served,

just as we hear instrumental background music

in restaurants today.

The winds were used in this type of music

because although they did not yet

have the finesse of the stringed instruments,

you could hear them above the noise of the dinner.

This music was simple and melodious

and throughout, there were little horn fanfares

reminiscent of the old tower calls.

A fine example of the use of table music

exists in Mozart's opera "Don Giovanni."

In the final act,

Don Giovanni has invited

the stone statue of his murder victim

to be his guest at a feast.

And like all noblemen, in his home,

the Don had his own woodwind instrumental group

seated in the dining hall to play

the popular tunes of the day during the meal.

Now, our woodwind group

will play the three popular tunes that Mozart picked

for this spot in "Don Giovanni."

The first two he borrowed from his contemporaries

and the third you will recognize

as being from Mozart's own previous opera,

"The Marriage of Figaro."

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Leporello sings, "That's a song I've heard too often."

And Mozart has this little joke on himself

because, after all, he was growing very, very tired

of the popularity of this particular tune.

It was number one on the hit parade in Europe in those days,

and wherever he went, he was bound to hear this tune --

reminded him of his popularity --

but he was getting a little bit tired of it.

However, Mozart never tired

of finding wonderful new uses for woodwinds,

and he literally took the woodwind players

and their friends, the horns,

off the streets

and out of the gardens and into the concert hall.

He did more to lift the musicians

who played wind instruments

out of the category of domestic servants and menials

than any other composer.

And you will hear in our next program

the Beethoven septet and the Mozart quintet,

how the strings now accepted the woodwinds

and went on to play many, many divertimenti.

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