Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks (1894-95) was one of seven tone poems Richard Strauss composed during a period 1886 to 1898. Most of these works deal with the subject of a hero or anti-hero and are considered the peak of the tone poem form. The mythical prankster, Till, was first discovered in a collection of tales published anonymously in a Schwankbuch, or joke book, in 1511 in Strassburg, Germany. Strauss begins his work with what is commonly referred to as the “once upon a time” theme. This is immediately followed by the first of the two Till motifs, presented by a brash melody in the horn. This melody develops into a grand conclusion with two repeated notes, much like a child declaring “Ta da!”, which leads into Till’s second theme a whimsical syncopation played by the clarinet and evoking the sound of laughter. The piece proceeds to follow Till through a series of adventures in which he travels on horseback, upsets the market carts, and eventually is captured and led to the gallows. Upon his arrival a dialogue between Till and the hangman ensues as he desperately tries to talk himself out of certain death. In a final failed attempt to plea bargain with the hangman, the e-flat clarinet rises for Till’s last moment, after which the “once upon a time” theme returns. However, Strauss seems to declare that the spirit of Till cannot be destroyed as the piece concludes with one last musical joke. This arrangement was written by Lawrence Price, horn player in the USAF Band of Liberty.
Anthony Plog was born on November 13, 1947 in Glendale, California. He received his music degree from UCLA and went on to a successful international career as a soloist and recording artist. His compositional activities have grown substantially in recent years, and his works are played frequently throughout the world. Since September 1993 Anthony Plog has been Professor of Music at the Musikhochschule in Freiburg i. Br. (Germany). His works are characterized by their originality and rare expressive dimension. Plog writes: This work for woodwind quintet explores many of the colors and textures available to the modern woodwind quintet. Written in five movements, the work at times features the different instruments as soloists while at other times a full tutti is used. The first movement has a lyrical and quiet pastoral setting, which alternates with a somber chorale. A slow second movement which features first the flute and then later the oboe leads to a spirited and very rhythmic allegro, which eventually ends quietly. The short and very fast third movement serves to separate the opening two movements from the final two. The final two movements conclude the piece, with the fourth movement being a very deliberate allegro moderato. The fifth movement is the most structurally complex of the piece and leads back to the opening pastoral theme, which leads to the final bars. This Woodwind Quintet #1 was commissioned by The New England Winds, USAF Band of Liberty.
SSgt Matthew (Mateo) Ayala-Román has served as a clarinetist and saxophonist in the United States Air Force for nine years. He received a BM in Music Education from the University of Puerto Rico and a MM in composition from the New England Conservatory. SSgt Ayala-Román is recipient of numerous awards from the Institute for the Puertorrican Culture and NEC. His music has been performed by soloist, chamber groups and symphonic bands across the United States and Puerto Rico. Ayala-Román writes: Imprechons on Sapapuh (Impressions on Shoes) Latin American Suite for Woodwind Quintet is in four movements, each one based on rhythms from different Latin American countries. The melody for the first movement was inspired when I was singing to my youngest son while walking in the park. A combination of two styles of music is used, march and cha-cha. The opening gesture in the clarinet and bassoon, like a snare drum, is followed by the main melody in the oboe and then in the flute. A tutti chordal break leads into a bassoon solo a la cha-cha, then an improvisatory passage is heard between the flute and bassoon. A second tutti chordal break brings the music back to the march style. The idea for the next movement was to only use four notes (Eb, F, Ab, and Bb). An ostinato in the bassoon, clarinet and flute is based on the conga rhythm of the bolero. The horn and oboe provide beautiful, warm melodies that explore a wide range of their instrumental capabilities. From the calmness and nostalgia of the second movement we go into a traditional Puerto Rican “Danza”. After the opening oboe solo both the flute and oboe play the melody in harmony. Then the oboe and the clarinet take the melody with the flute adding a countermelody. The horn has a dual purpose by recollecting ideas from the previous two movements and providing an improvisatory quality to the flute, oboe and clarinet melodies. The final movement is based on a Venezuelan waltz style in a rondo fashion. Fragmented ideas in rising and falling patterns bring contrast to the principal thematic idea. A “deciso” and energetic gesture carries the music to the end.
Theodor Blumer was born in Dresden on March 24, 1881. He studied composition at the Dresden Conservatory under the direction of Felix Dreseke and W. Brookman and was appointed conductor of the Dresden Radio Orchestra in 1931. Soon after, he moved to Leipzig as conductor of the Middle German Radio Orchestra, a position he held for the next eleven years. He spent the rest of his life in Berlin and passed away in 1964. Blumer’s small catalogue of music includes works for solo piano, string orchestra, piano quintet, violin sonata, string trio, flute sonata, and four woodwind quintets. Quintet for Winds, Werk 52 is written in four movements following the basic format of a symphony. The first, labelled very fresh and fiery, explores the thick harmonic language that Blumer intends for the work. As the movement progresses the tempo is pushed forward with markings of treiben and steigern, or to drive and increase. The second movement, entitled Romanze, begins with a wonderful oboe melody which continues throughout the ensemble. A quicker più mosso section interjects before the initial gentle feel returns for its conclusion. Labelled leicht fließend, or flowing easily, the third movement is a minuet. The movement goes from a flowing 3/4 feel to a quicker 2/4 B-section and then returns again to its original 3/4 feel. The finale is grand, upbeat and energetic. The music returns to the forward moving idea presented in the first movement. Apart from a short slow interlude, it continues to build until its dramatic conclusion.