Joseph Horovitz: Ballet for Band

Context

Joseph Horovitz was commissioned to compose the Championship Section test piece for the National Finals in 1983, which was held at the Royal Albert Hall, London. He composed Ballet for Band, which was conquered by Cory Band that year. More recently, Ballet for Band was used as the finals test piece for the First Section. Horovitz said this about the work:

 

“Ballet for Band is the music for an imaginary ballet. The characters and plot were quite clear in my mind before composing it, but I prefer the audience to exercise their own imagination rather than to be influenced by mine. 

The work is in three main linked sections, the central one being the most lyrical. All the themes are directly or more subtly derived from the opening fanfare motif, which is also heard at the end.”

 

The Music

Indeed the opening fanfare starts Ballet for Band off with a band as the lower band signals for the upper band to fanfare in clear unison. The power, vigor and vivacity of the opening fanfare exchanges between the top and bottom of the band is quite the spectacle. As the dynamic begins to drop, a more mysterious lower band section ensues. As a solo cornet and euphonium begin to dance together in a waltz-like melody, the music takes another sudden turn. Horovitz implements this throughout, as the music keeps changing suddenly, which adds excitement to the score. 

The central lyrical section shows off soloists in the band, as well as showcases Horovitz’s skillful melodic writing. The warm timbre of this section is inviting and shows the listener how effective a brass band can be with the right set of dynamics. As the ensemble grows together, the music begins to flourish through broader dynamics and a final realization of the main melody. 

The final section begins with an intricate muted section from the cornets. Cross-rhythms between the different sections of the band are finally heard. The dance-like feeling of this section is cheeky and more carefree than the other two sections. Ballet for Band concludes with a reprise of the opening fanfare that has remained the central figure for this whole piece. As the work builds to the ultimate climax, the band begin to unite to create a powerful wall of sound. A final flourish across the band finishes Ballet for Band in thrilling style. 

 

Ⓒ Alex Burns 2020

Happy Reading!

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