commentary to opus 39

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Sinfonietta for Wind Orchestra op. 39 (1970)

I. Fanfare

II. Tempo di Valse

III. Intermezzo

IV. Finale concertante beginning

 

First performance (without Fanfare): July 3, 1970, Trossingen , Dr. Ernst-Hohner-Konzerthaus
10. Heeresmusikkorps der Bundeswehr Ulm / Simon Dach

First performance (with Fanfare): January 28, 1990, Hohenheim, University
Concert Band of University Hohenheim / Patrick Siben

Orchestra: Picc., 2 Fl., 2 Ob., Cor Angl., Clar. in E-Flat, 3 Clar. in B-flat, Bass Clar., 2 Bssn ., Contra-Bssn ., 2 Alt-Sax. in E-Flat, Tenor-Sax. in B- flat, Baritone-Sax. in E-Flat, 4 Hrn. in F., 3 Cornett in B-flat, 3 Tpt. in B-flat, 4 Trb., Tenor Hrn., Baritone, 2 Tub., Timp., Perc. <3-4> (timp., snare drum, bass drum, field drum, vibra, xyl., 5 cymbals, pair of cymbals, ratchet, triangle, tam tam, gong,  5 temple block, 3 tom tom)

Duration: 18 Minutes

Publisher: N. Simrock Hamburg-London (Boosey & Hawkes)
Score: ISMN: 9790221118127
Score and parts: ISMN: 9790221118134

 

In the first movement Fanfare, the interval of a fifth plays a dominant role. Canon, augmentation and diminution, accompanied by ostinato figures mark the formal divisions of this movement with its introductory character.
In the second movement Tempo di valse, gestures of waltz and ländler are part of the starting material - briefly flaring fanfare sounds remind us of the first movement. As in Maurice Ravel's "La Valse", this "disturbed" waltz is not danceable, but rather an inquisitive encounter with this dance form. Very untypical for a waltz is for example the obtrusive dotted rhythm which leads to an unexpected close.
The third movement Intermezzo, is the "solemn" part of the work. Three brief motifs appear, contrasting with a rhythmical melody in thirds. In the course of the movement, the individual elements interpenetrate each other increasingly, reaching then a close with ritardando in an extreme pianissimo.
The entire fourth movement Finale concertante, is dominated by ornamental figures based on a six-note motif. A twenty-bar march theme forces itself on us, followed by a "cantus-firmus" treatment of a mercenaries' song from the 30 Years War. The march theme is announced again. In the apotheosis, all elements of the movement are heard, whereby the "weaving" of the woodwind - in canon over the soldiers' song - is conceived in twelve-tone technique. A short coda with rapidly forming tutti ends the work.

Bertold Hummel

Musical Structure

 

Press

M - Musik zum Lesen 04/02

A lot has still to be done in developing a taste for new sounds
At the Bavarian State Music Festival in Bamberg, the "Sinfonietta" by Bertold Hummel is on the competition programme for the top level. Federal Conductor Ernst Oestreicher, responsible for programme selection, met the composer for a conversation.

The "Sinfonietta" was written as early as 1970. What occasioned the work and why is it having a renascence today, 30 years later?
My op. 39 was written for a theory student of mine - today he is a first lieutenant leading an air force band - for his band-leader examination. For the first performance, the army music corps in Ulm was available. It is of course pleasing that my work is again currently in vogue and is finding new echoes. Part of the success is certainly due to the new edition, which can be purchased instead of hired, as was previously the case.

For amateur musicians and amateur event organisers - as most are, who are involved in the North Bavarian Music Federation - new music is today still something one is not familiar with and is often rejected. What are the reasons for this?
In many cases, my composer colleagues have not taken enough interest in "music by and for amateurs", so that a lot still has to be done in this field to make new ideas in sound and new compositional techniques and structures familiar.

Is it legitimate to offer the amateur listener help and orientation, or should it be left up to each individual to develop his own way of listening through contact with the work?
In general, the composer should express himself so clearly, that no further commentary is necessary. There are however different stages of musical comprehension. First of all, there is completely unprejudiced naive listening, then analytical listening, which can also lead to an high aesthetic enjoyment. For this, however, the right help is needed for the untrained ear, as is incidentally also the case with classical-romantic music.

What advice would you offer musicians and listeners to help them along the way to a better comprehension of this work?
Besides some musical examples and formal sketches, the following could be said about the four movements:
In the first movement (Fanfare), the interval of a fifth plays a dominant role. Canon, augmentation and diminution, accompanied by ostinato figures mark the formal divisions of this movement with its introductory character.
In the second movement (Tempo di valse), gestures of waltz and ländler are part of the starting material - briefly flaring fanfare sounds remind us of the first movement. As in Maurice Ravel's "La Valse", this "disturbed" waltz is not danceable, but rather an inquisitive encounter with this dance form. Very untypical for a waltz is for example the obtrusive dotted rhythm which leads to an unexpected close.
The third movement (Intermezzo), is the "solemn" part of the work. Three brief motifs appear, contrasting with a rhythmical melody in thirds. In the course of the movement, the individual elements interpenetrate each other increasingly, reaching then a close with ritardando in an extreme pianissimo.
The entire fourth movement (Finale concertante), is dominated by ornamental figures based on a six-note motif. A twenty-bar march theme forces itself on us, followed by a "cantus-firmus" treatment of a mercenaries' song from the 30 Years War. The march theme is announced again. In the apotheosis, all elements of the movement are heard, whereby the "weaving" of the woodwind - in canon over the soldiers' song - is conceived in twelve-tone technique. A short coda with rapidly forming tutti ends the work.

In a Sinfonietta, one would naturally expect a certain degree of classical form. Do you fulfil these expectations?
Really only in the fourth movement, which comes out almost in a sonata form. The first three movements have more the character of movements of a suite.

Where do you see special problems for our orchestra leaders in preparing the a performance of this work?
As individual instruments are often heard alone, these passages have to be in a balanced relationship to the general sound. It is also important to pay attention to the sometimes very contrasting dynamics, so that the musical and specifically instrumental aims of the composer are realised.

You have described the "Sinfonietta" as your "no longer so young daughter". What do you associate with this daughter of the year 1970 and her generation and time?
Generally, I have no problems with my elder daughters of the Muses, for they were each a genuine expression of my musical thought and inventiveness at the time. Perhaps there is a hint to be detected here of my divided feelings about false pathos.

Modern compositions are always subject to delving questions regarding the extent to which they are based on historical compositional ideas. Does your "Sinfonietta" show signs of influence from a particular style?
We always stand on the shoulders of our forefathers. My style is a sum of all that has formed me as a composer. The attempt at a synthesis of all the different compositional achievements of the so-called "modern music" can certainly also be classified as "new, contemporary music".

What place do you give to your "Sinfonietta" in the context of your whole oeuvre for wind orchestra?
The "Sinfonietta" represented for me during its composition an attempt to help in reviving and upgrading the slightly encrusted woodwind repertoire. It was my first full-scale work in the area of wind orchestra and therefore has a special significance in my production. My wish is that as many bands as possible should take on the challenge of the work, especially at the competition in Bamberg.

You are a professional musician and were President of the State Music College in Würzburg. As the former director of such a "smithy" for professionals, how do you look upon the efforts of amateur musical associations and their wind orchestras to interpret modern music?
I can only welcome these efforts and attempt to support them with all means at my disposal.

Music always takes place within the triangular relationship composer . performer - listener. This relationship is unfortunately not always untroubled. The performers complain even before the first contact with modern music about it's being incomprehensible, the listeners moan about "wrong chords" and apparent lack of cohesion. How can we in future improve the relationship between the composer and his "victims", who have to play and listen to the compositions?
As a composer, a matter of the greatest importance for me is my sociological position. I do not take only myself seriously, but also performers and audience. Thus I hope that, at performances of my works, there will consent on all sides about entering into this relationship between composer - performers - and listeners. This can of course happen on different levels. For this to happen, it is necessary for the composer on his part to have an accurate idea of the technical competence of the performers, an accumulation of experience and knowledge in dealing with the instruments in question - as well as on the part of performers and audience an unprejudiced openness regarding the new works.

Composers writing for wind orchestra and their compositions are often placed by the GEMA (German performing rights association), without closer inspection, in the category light entertainment, which is often to the disadvantage of composers of "serious" modern music. Is this distinction between serious and light music still sensible at this time, or should we be looking for other criteria?
This is often a result of the way programme information is gathered. Many of the serious works referred to appear in the opening parts of a concert programme, while the rest of the programme is mainly concerned with light music. In such cases, it is advisable to call the classification committee of the GEMA.
There has been and still is a lot of discussion about "serious" and "light". There are countless intermediate steps from the oratorio, the symphony down to the banal "hit", which the GEMA has to try to classify fairly according to a complicated procedure which is reviewed annually by a general meeting af members and improved in the light of experience. This is in my opinion at least fairer than a uniform treatment for all, which would for example be very much to the advantage of authors with purely commercial tendencies in the present "light music" area. The creators of cultural material in the real sense would certainly suffer severely. (Refer on this subject to the German law on protection of artists' rights of the 8th May, 1998, BGB, §7): "The pattern of distribution should be according to the principle of supporting works and performances of cultural importance."
Professor Hummel, I thank you for the interview and hope that the "Sinfonietta" will become a "classic" of the literature for symphonic wind orchestra.

 

Works for (amateur) wind orchestra
At the end of this look at Bertold Hummel's symphonic work, some remarks on his writing for amateur musicians is necessary. In this field, he is very much in the tradition of his teachers Genzmer and Hindemith, who similarly never lost their rapport with the practices of the non-professional musician. A natural maxim applies: the simpler the concept, the more diatonic and small-scale the building blocks and sounds. The aspect of sound colour becomes less important and the compositional characteristics are more strongly centred on draughtsman-like linear structures with a significantly conventional effect.
Of the symphonic works, those for wind orchestra are among the simpler ones. Specifically conceived for amateurs were the "Sinfonietta", op. 39 (1970) and the "Musica Urbana", op. 81c, composed in 1983 and baptised a year later in Hummel's birthplace, Hüfingen, under his direction with local musicians. At a slightly more demanding level, Hummel composed in 1977 the "Oregon Symphony", op. 67, performed for the first time on the 7th April, 1978 in Ashland, Oregon (USA) in the presence of the composer. Nine years later, during his second visit to the USA, Hummel had the "Symphonic Overture", op. 81d (the extended "Oregon Symphony") in his luggage and had this performed for the first time in Seattle on the 21st November, 1987 by the W.I.B.C Directors' Band.

Claus Kühnl (in "Die sinfonischen Werke Bertold Hummels", Tutzing, 1998)

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