Broadheath Music

Contemporary Classical Music by Frank Wilhoit

Symphony for Brass, Op. 33 (1997; 2017)


This symphony was completed in 2017 from initial sketches made in 1997. It is scored for three trumpets (one in D, two in B-flat), four horns, three trombones (two tenor, one bass), euphonium and tuba.

Brass ensemble is a difficult medium to score for; each instrument has different things that it is not good at, and the cliched "brass band" sounds must be avoided or at least re-imagined.

The Symphony is in four movements:

The first movement (Allegro non troppo, B minor) is in an unusual varying meter, whose basic idea is that each bar ends with an extra half beat. It is in sonatina form: the exposition is immediately followed by a developing recapitulation. The music is dark and almost dystopian, with only occasional comic relief, as where the second theme is brought back in a parody of "oom-pah-pah" style.

The second movement (Vivacissimo, G major, 2/4) is a scherzo, with trio in C major.

The third movement (Largo, E minor, 2/4) presents a dialogue between slow-march idioms and sudden loud passages based on staccato chords and fast trumpet scales. Toward the end, it turns out to have been an extended introduction to

...the fourth movement (Allegro, C major, 6/8), which is best taken as a good, fun romp, while it goes about its serious job of sorting all the contrasts and loose ends from the preceding movements. Most of that is done by rather technical means (including a conflict between C major and C minor/E-flat that goes all the way down to the wire), which are no less effective for not being obvious.

Copyright © 2015 Frank Wilhoit