LAUDES for brass quintet
Program notes by the composer
Laudes (loud-ays), as its name may imply, is a Twentieth-Century tribute to the great brass tower music of the Italian Renaissance. Its title has several different associations: I(louds) was the sunrise service of the Roman Catholic Church. Laude (loud-ee) were Italian hymns of praise and devotion which flourished from the 13th through the 19th centuries. And the title is also a musical pun: somewhere in each movement is a loud concert A! The work was written in late 1971 at the request of the Chicago Brass Quintet, which premiered the piece at Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Art on January 21, 1972.
The work is cast in four contrasting movements. Reveille moves from dark to bright colors, alternating sections of relative inactivity with sections of extreme brilliance and energy. Its title was chosen after the fact, because of the music's suggestion of a sunrise. Scherzo is cast in three-part form, its quick outer sections consisting principally of a single melodic line produced by rapid entrances and exits of the five instruments playing their "open" (valveless) tones con sordino, the middle section consisting of chromatic scale segments in both principal and supporting material. Cantilena gives each instrument an opportunity to dominate one of several solo sections which alternate with weightier sections of all five instruments, each section cadencing in the same d minor/c minor ploychord. Volta, a lewd dance (the couples actually embraced each other!) of Provencal origin, is in this instance a quick movement of violent dynamic and textural contrasts. After an exhausted breakdown of the instrumental forces near the end of this movement, the suite concludes with a coda based on a slow section of the first movement; out of this coda emerges a gradually rising and quickening line which brings the work to a brilliant close.
In 1974 this work received international attention when it was chosen as the best new brass quintet submitted to the First International Brass Institute in Montreux, Switzerland. Since that time, Laudes has been performed countless times throughout the world, largely through the efforts of the New York Brass Quintet, which performed it on two European and several American tours, recorded it on Crystal records, and published it through their Mentor Music house. Laudes opened the Kennedy Library in Boston, and was danced to by the Hubbard Street Dancers on the streets of New York. It is one of a very few works by living contemporary composers existing simultaneously in four different recordings, three of which on CD and recorded since 1990. In 1983 a poll of International Trumpet Guild members selected it (along with works by Dahl, Schuller, and Etler) as one of the four most significant brass quintets ever written.