TRIPTYCH for brass quintet
Program notes by the composer
The Triptych for brass quintet was a joint commission by the American Brass Quintet and Chamber Music America, with funds from the Pew Memorial Trust. It was written during the summer of 1989.
As its name might imply, the Triptych is a set of three movements for brass, based on formal prototypes of the Renaissance period but updated to take advantage of the assumed improvements in brass instrument design and playing techniques over the past four centuries. These include such things as increased chromaticism, wider dynamic range, use of trombone "smears" and rapid changes of mutes and instruments, in addition to a traditional legacy of antiphonal entrances, points of imitation, and widely varying polyphonic instrumental textures.
The Canzona is typified by frequent appearances of a long-short-short repeated-pitch pattern, alternated with sections suggesting heterophonic pyramids; hemiola (metric substitution) is also very much in evidence.
The Threnody is a dirge, primarily muted, in which each instrument has the opportunity to intersperse its solo lament between appearances of a tutti ritornello of concerted grief.
The Fuga pits the working-out of a four-square fugue subject against a perpetual-motion counterpoint of running triplets. The subject begins in trombones and works its way up through the other instruments. As the subject's appearances occur in higher and higher keys, the two trumpet players (in self- defense?) are forced to change accordingly to other, more suitable instruments.