Sonata for Brass

By: Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber
For: Brass quartet
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Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber
Moderate (Grades 4-6)
4 minutes
Classical music
License details
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This piece by the Austrian violin virtuoso Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber, was, and continues to be one of the very first Brass pieces I ever fell in love with on very first hearing. My cousin Steve, the clarinetist, gave me a Nonesuch record called A Festival of Trumpets with the New York Trumpet Ensemble, Gerard Schwarz, Director. I listened to it over and over again. I had an elaborate electronic alarm system set up in my bedroom so when it was time for to wake up for school this would be the first thing I heard. It's originally for 6 trumpets, timpani and continuo (organ or harpsichord). Biber wrote his Sonata a 7 for the trumpeters of the of the Prince Bishop Olm�tz and Kremsier, Count Karl of Leichenstein-Kastelkorn. The bishop had a penchant for lavishness. He is know to have spared no expense in building himself an elegant baroque castle, and he kept an excellent orchestra and distinguished composers in his employ; evidently he maintained a first rate group of trumpeters as well. Biber's Sonata, while emphasizing the characteristic triadic melodies of the natural trumpet's middle (principale) register, places all six players at least part of the time in the difficult top-most octave, the so-called clarino range, where the trumpet could produce all of the notes of the diatonic scale. Moreover, there are complicated echo passages that only highly skilled musicians could have executed. With its emphasis on massive and spectacular effects, Biber's sonata represents and obvious appeal to the Bishop's fondness for unusual sonorities. I too have a soft spot for the sonorities of the piece and I had actually arranged it for my wedding, for an ensemble of, 2 oboes, 2 horns, 2 bassoons, double bass and solo trumpet. This arrangement is a reworking of the woodwind arrangement for nine brass instruments. I sincerely hope you enjoy playing this piece because I think it will be very effective. I played the trumpet ensemble version once when I was at Juilliard and it was a pretty miserable experience. My teacher at the time and coach of the ensemble told us we were all playing like wimps , , , he yelled, �This is music of the 16th Century!! Everyone�s dying of plague! play louder!!� and of course I overcompensated and missed every high c in the piece. That said, I never stopped loving this piece and have about 20 recordings of it. I dedicated to my teacher, Mark Gould.

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