British wind Music Before 1981

CHAPTER 1 - The Beginnings Of Wind Music - Renaissance & Baroque

Music On The Battlefield

It is easy to forget the vital part played by musicians in war throughout the ages, and the subsequent role of military music in the development of the wind of both band and symphony orchestra. One of the earliest accounts in English history of military music is of the Battle of Halidon Hill in 1333, the first time that instruments were recorded as part of the army. As the ballad ran:

This was do with mery sownde,
With pipes, trompes and tabers therto,
And loud clarionnes thei blew also.

Drums and trumpets had been used in battle from time immemorial, but in the Middle Ages, the Crusades had had a particular impact on Western music, through the introduction of a wide range of instruments in the Saracen armies; pipes, shawms, drums and kettledrums, cymbals and bells must have made a terrifying noise.

The First Musicians' Union

The Middle Ages is one of the richest periods in the development of the arts, but whereas architects, painters and a handful of poets and writers left us great examples of their industry, musical traditions were largely lost. Until the invention of printing in the 16th century, music was largely improvised, passed down through generations in the same way as the great epic poems and songs. The key figures in the music of the Middle Ages were the minstrels and jongleurs, who formed themselves into unions or guilds as early as 1288, when the Nicolai-Brüderschaft was founded in Vienna. They were versatile: I am a fiddler, I play the bagpipe and flute, harp, chifonie and giga, psaltery and rote, and I can sing a song as well boasts one

Gradually these itinerant musicians became an important part of community life; in England groups of civic minstrels were called "waits", the equivalent of the Italian civic pipers, German Stadtpfeifer or town musicians. Gradually too, musicians gained respectability and subsequent employment in the church, while at court they naturally enhanced pomp and circumstance.. Performance of Renaissance and indeed much Baroque music languished until the latter half of the twentieth century, when scholarship and investigations led to the professional development of authentic performance of "Early Music". The late David Munrow led the field, and his book illustrated with a set of records, Instruments of the Middle Ages published by OUP in 1976, reads like a detective story, piecing together the musical practice of four centuries from contemporary pictures and writings and from the few examples of pre-1600 instruments extant.

Some idea of the wealth of music making in the 16th century can be culled from contemporary accounts. A procession to honour Charles V of Spain had no less than fifty trumpeters, while in England the collection of instruments of Henry VIII included 154 flutes, 22 cornetts, 21 crumhorns, 17 shawms and 11 bassoon-type instruments. There is a great deal of pictorial evidence of the use of wind, brass and percussion, perhaps best shown in the magnificent woodcuts of 1512, "The Triumph of Maximilian", typifying all of the exuberance of the Renaissance.

Some of the earliest permanent public groups of wind were consorts of shawms or of two cornetts and three sackbuts. These proliferated, carrying out civic duties throughout Europe, and every town had a group of Stadtpfeifer, many until the turn of the nineteenth century when revolution and legislation did away with these "waits". A great deal of music for five instruments, either recorders, viols, or sackbuts and cornets, can be found in modern editions, including works by Holborne, Brade, Susato and Pezel.

The Venetian School & Monteverdi

Instrumentally, the climax of this period is undoubtedly found in the canzonas and ricecares of Italy of the late 16th Century and in particular those of the Venetian School. The great antiphonal works of Giovani Gabrieli and his contemporaries were conditioned by the architecture of St. Mark's Cathedral, with galleries surrounding, each with an organ. It is convenient to cite his Sonate pian e forte (1597) as the first work specifying dynamics as well as the orchestration of two choirs, one with violin and 3 sackbuts, one with cornett and 3 sackbuts. The echo effects of his polychoral works were to imbue the Baroque repertoire for a century and a half, through the great works of Schutz to the massive double choruses of Bach, and his experiments with instrumental colour must have been a source of inspiration for Monteverdi.

By 1600, already experiments were underway with simple monodic settings of Greek plays, but nobody could have anticipated the sudden flowering of opera in the hands of Montgeverdi, who brought his considerable experience in the late renaissance madrigal to combine with the new baroque style, and in 1606 was able to write the first masterpiece in this genre, Orfeo, with an orchestra of over 40 instruments, the earliest opera in today's repertoire.

Development Of Baroque Instruments

The 17th Century was one of constant experiment and change in instrumental music, experiments carried out for both civilian and military purposes. As Raoul Camus points out in his fascinating book Military Music of the American Revolution, war up to and during the Middle Ages was an haphazard affair, with soldiers engaged in hand to hand fighting. What little organisation there was would stem from drum beats used to give signals; later during the 17th century. as a more disciplined teamwork developed, so the army needed marches, and bands became more necessary, first with drums to which fifes and bagpipes were added.

The concept of shawms and drums seems also to have come from the Turkish Janissaries, first adopted in France and then later in England, with the establishment of 6 "hoboys" attached to the Horse Grenadiers in 1678. The old Renaissance instruments had been made in one piece, the new Baroque were generally jointed in three, with a possibility for greater accuracy in tuning, and greater flexibility of dynamics. Gradually recorders gave way to flutes, shawms to oboes, dulcians to bassoons.

The Court Of Louis XIV

Military music of the century is summed up in the Philidor Collection of 1705, a large body of military music by Lully, Philidor father and son, Hoteterre and others, with music for oboes in four parts and intricate parts for side drum and kettle drums. These were the musicians and instrument makers who spearheaded the first big technological revolution in the late 17th century at the Court of Louis XIV, and under the Sun King's court musicians, we see the growth of ballet, opera and orchestral music with mixed bands of strings and wind.

To escape from the politics and intrigues of Paris, Louis moved his court to Versailles whenever possible, eventually even transferring the seat of government there, along with the heady delights of theatre and opera. He appointed Molière and Racine to write plays and devise ballets and entertainments. Music was provided by Lully, Delalande and Couperin the Great, and they had at their disposal a musical establishment including the musicians of the Chapel, the Chamber, and the Ecurie as well as the soloists of the Royal Academy, each with its own personnel and place in the entertainments of the day.; Les Grands Hautbois, a group of twleve wind, is one of the most significant groups of the period, rivalling the highly disciplined "twenty-four violins". This ensemble was to be lampooned in the traditional nursery rhyme of "Four and Twenty Blackbirds, Baked in a Pie", a satirical piece of doggerel attacking the "Kings Violins", imitated in England by Charles 11 after the Restoration of 1660.

At first Lully provided incidental music for the plays of Moliere, but from 1669, public taste turned to Italian opera, and Lully wrote an opera each year. With the lyric theatre came the need for a richer palette of orchestral colour; horns were introduced for hunting scenes, and trumpets and drums for martial episodes.

Wind In The Late Baroque

Throughout the Baroque, the shape of the orchestra was left to the requirements of the occasion and the whim of the composer. Bach's six Brandenburg Concerti (1723) are perhaps typical. The third and sixth are written for solo string groups, the other four have a ripieno accompaniment of strings and continue (harpischord with cello) to a wide range of differing ensembles, the first with a solo piccolo violin, two horns and three oboes, the second with a solo quartet of violin, flute, oboe and trumpet, the fourth with violin and two flutes and the fifth with violin, flute and harpsichord.

However, while in orchestral music this somewhat chaotic state of affairs held sway, the military bands of the middle and late barqoue were already developing in embryo the wind groupings of the classical orchestra. In England, one of the initiatives of Thomas Cromwell's Commonwealth had been the formation of the New Model Army, which in 1660 swore allegiance to Charles 11, forming among other regiments the Grenadier and Coldstream Guards. Drummers were attached from the outset, in 1662 a fifer was added, and in 1685 a warrant was signed by the King authorising the maintenance of twelve hautbois, clearly in imitation of Louis' "Grands Hautbois". By 1725 a pair of horns had been added, and by 1748 the Coldstream Guards had an octet.

The first recorded example in England of what must have been a "classical" orchestra is the advertisement for a concert by The Buffs, 3rd Regiment of Foot, at the White Hart in Lewes on 29th December 1749; there were ten items, four described as Symphony with French Horns, with two concertos for Hautboy, one for the German Flute, one for Violin, and solos for the French Horn and the Trumpet. Tickets were not cheap, 1s 6d, but since the regiment inspection report of 1785 notes briefly No Band, the longest surviving British band is almost certainly that of the Royal Regiment of Artillery.

The Royal Artillery Band

Formed in 1716, the regiment was on active service in Minden in 1762 during the Seven Years War, when the commanding officer, Lt Colonel Philips, decided that the long winter evenings would be enlivened by the appointment of a band. He proposed the following:

  1. i. The band to consist of eight men, who must also be capable to play upon the violoncello, bass, violin and flute, as other common instruments.
  2. ii. The regiment's musick must consist of two trumpets, two French horns, two bassoons, and four hautbois or clarinetts; these instruments to be provided by the regiment, but kept in repair by the head musician.

Articles of Agreement for the formation of the Royal Artillery Band, 1762.

Already pay differentials were in force since it was stipulated that So long as the artillery remains in Germany each musician to have ten dollars per month, but the two French horns to have twelve dollars per month.

It was later agreed that the players should be men whose regularity, sobriety, good conduct and honesty can most strictly be depended upon; that are most remarkably clean and neat in their dress; that have an approved ear and taste for music, and a method of teaching; without speaking harshly to the youths or hurrying them on too fast.

From these militaristic beginnings, what was perhaps the greatest development of repertoire of the wind ensemble took place in the latter part of the 18th century, under the enlightened patronage of courts throughout Europe but particularly in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The culmination wasNicolai- in the great masterpieces of Mozart, the Serenades in C Minor, Eb and Bb, and the lesser works in similar vein by Haydn, Beethoven, Krommer and Hummel, but scores of works by lesser composers exist, especially of operatic arrangements by Wendt, Triebensee, Wendlak and other players.

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