New England Conservatory Wind Ensemble/Live from Jordan Hall

Sir Michael Tippett

Praeludium for Brass and Percussion

Tippett's Praeludium was commissioned for the fortieth anniversary of the BBC, in 1962. It was first performed on November 14 that year, at a concert in the Royal Festival Hall, London, given by the BBC Symphony Orchestra under their then chief conductor, Antal Dorati. The rest of the program included Bartok's Cantata Profana, the Dance round the Golden Calf from Schoenberg's Moses und Aron and Stravinsky's Le Sacre du Printemps. The extensive number of brass and percussion players required for the concert enabled Tippett to score his Praeludium for a sizeable contingent, comprising 6 horns, trumpet in D, 2 trumpets in C, 3 trombones, 2 tubas, bells, and 3 percussionists (side-drum, bass drum, castanets, tom-tom, wood block, cymbals).

Lasting six minutes, the Praeludium is not a conventional celebratory fanfare, but more hieratic in character: a study in contrasting blocks of sonority and texture, indebted to the sound-world of Tippett's opera, King Priam (1958-61), whose premiere had taken place the same year. Its overall shape consists of two main strophes and a coda: and its musical material is from the outset tautly defined. The brilliance of the trumpets, emerging from the assertive opening statements for full ensemble, is evident as a series of interacting dance-lines, rather than the usual fanfare gestures. Only when this has been brought to a close by the intervention of the trombones does a hint of lyricism emerge, with the horns (three of the six at any one time in unison), accompanied low down by two tubas, outlining an extended theme (actually, a variant on a horn theme first heard in the war music of Act 2 of King Priam).

The dancing trumpet lines now become more distant, played con sordino; but although they occasionally emerge resplendent again into the foreground, at the close of the piece, they are once more on the far horizon. This trend towards a distancing of the instrumental sonority applies also to Tippett's deployment of percussion, particularly the bells, which are used to extend the resonance of the brass.

Tippett's biographer Ian Kemp, puzzled that the composer should have responded to this important commission with such a curiously reflective work, remarked that the Praeludium was more like an epilogue than a prologue. On the other hand, a standard superficial flourish would surely have sounded incongruous in the context of the three pieces it introduced at its premiere. Moreover, as with his Piano Sonata No. 2 and Concerto for Orchestra—both composed in the same year and both utilising materials and methods first explored in King Priam—the Praeludium illustrates how crucial a turning point the opera had been in his compositional development.

—Meirion Bowen

Ivan Tcherepnin

Concerto for Two Continents

The Concerto for Two Continents for Synthesizer and Wind Orchestra is Ivan Tcherepnin's fourth commissioned work for the American Wind Symphony Orchestra. It was premiered in Vaasa, Finland, with the composer as soloist on the synthesizer. The one-movement work makes extensive use of the synthesizer's possibilities. At various times it sounds like a vocal choir, a clarinet trio, horn quartet, a celesta, electric bass or a mistuned balalaika-like piano. As the synthesizer voices are timbral hybrids created by Tcherepnin, so are the motivic and melodic materials hybrids, wherein musical materials from one culture are “morphed” into those of another culture. The concerto draws from North American and Russian folk music and mixes them up, for example blending “Turkey in the Straw” with “My Green Fields,” or Black American sources with Central Asian (Tartar) ones. The concerto can be heard as a joyful celebration of the power of music to cross borders and bring peoples together through a commonly shared world of tones and rhythms.

Michael Colgrass

Winds of Nagual

The Winds of Nagual is based on the writings of Carlos Castaneda about his 14-year apprenticeship with Juan Mattise, a Yaqui Indian sorcerer from northwestern Mexico. Castaneda met Don Juan while researching hallucinogenic plants for his master's thesis in anthropology at UCLA. Juan becomes Castaneda's mentor and trains him in Pre-Columbian techniques of sorcery, the overall purpose of which is to find the creative self—what Juan calls the “Nagual.”

Each of the characters has a musical theme: Juan's is dark and ominous, yet gentle and kind; Carlos's is open, direct, and naïve. We hear Carlos's theme throughout the piece from constantly changing perspectives, as Juan submits him to long desert marches, encounters with terrifying powers, and altered states of reality. A comic aspect is added to the piece by Don Genaro, a sorcerer friend of Juan's who frightens Carlos with fantastic tricks, like disappearing and reappearing at will.

The score is laced with programmatic indications such as “Juan entrances Carlos with a stare,” “A horrible creature leaps at Carlos,” “He feels a deep calm and joy,” etc. The listener need not have read Castaneda's books to enjoy the work, and I don't expect anyone to follow an exact scenario. My object is to capture the mood and atmosphere created by the books and to convey a feeling of the relationship that develops as a man of ancient wisdom tries to develop heart in an analytical young man of the technological age.

—Michael Colgrass

The composer provides the following notes as a guide to the music.


Don Juan emerges from the mountains.

Carlos approaches Don Juan.

Carlos meets Don Juan … the first conversation.

Don Juan shows Carlos a new concept of himself.


Genaro clowns for Carlos.

Genaro satirizes Carlos.

Genaro laughs.

Genaro leaps to a mountain top.

Genaro disappears.


Carlos stares at the river,

… and is transfixed by the ripples on the water.

Carlos is mesmerized by the bubbles,

… and becomes a bubble.

Carlos travels with the river.

Carlos tumbles in cascades of water.

Juan jolts Carlos awake with a shrill voice.

Carlos feels euphoric,

… and climbs out of the water.


Don Juan shows Carlos how to leap between boulders in the dark.

Carlos tries it.

Something moves in the dark.

A terrifying creature leaps at Carlos.

Carlos runs … it chases him.

The creature grabs his throat.

Carlos exerts his will.


Carlos calls to the desert from a hilltop.

Carlos dances.

Carlos meditates.

Carlos moves again.

He feels a deep calm and joy.

Nightfall … mist rolls in and the moon rises.



Carlos leaps into the abyss,

… and explodes into a thousand views of the world.

Sir Michael Tippett

Triumph: A Paraphrase of “The Mask of Time”

The sixth movement of The Mask of Time is titled “The Triumph of Life,” a grotesque vision of the “triumphal” progress of a chariot throwing bodies off in all directions: this is complemented by the depiction (using Tippett's own words) of Shelley's own death, drowning at sea in an attempted defiance of a storm; and the movement ends with the burning of the body of the poet (a legal requirement of the period) though legend has it, the heart would not burn.

Tippett's work begins with the scene-setting introduction of the sixth movement, but this is cut short. Instead, the cosmic metaphor of “sound” that opens The Mask of Time—the recurrent Ur motif of the entire work—is invoked, before the music for the triumphal chariot begins (featuring an extraordinary ground-bass, present throughout this section). The “sound” motif returns again later, after the bells and woodwind have tolled for the burning of the poet's body.

The Mask of Time ends in a triumphal assertion of human survival in a destructive world—its wordless vocalizing taking its cue from a line in a poem of the First World War by Siegfried Sassoon: “The singing will never be done.” This Paraphrase has a similar final gesture of triumph of its own, rather like Beethoven's Egmont Overture. The music suddenly changes direction and fanfares blaze out in a climax of virtuosity. Most of this episode is based upon the third of the instrumental interludes in the seventh movement of The Mask of Time, all of them in the style of chorale preludes on the hymn Veni Creator Spiritus. The embellishments are elaborated further in this version, the hymn is made more prominent, and the last few bars are completely new.

The Mask of Time was conceived for large forces—four solo singers, chorus and an orchestra that featured a sizeable contingent of brass, woodwind, and percussion, prominent particularly in the episodes incorporated here. What facilitated transcription was the mosaic character of Tippett's scoring. Thus, the “blocks” of solo and choral sonority have been replaced here by wind sonorities fresh to the work—four saxophones, cornets, and tenor tubas (or baritones)—though they are deployed freely, rather than as exact equivalents. Linking the episodes of the chariot and Shelley's drowning is an ascending motif for the brass, drawn from Tippett's Fourth Symphony, where its scoring utilizes two bass tubas. In The Mask of Time, only one tuba is included; here, the original bass tuba has been restored.

—Meirion Bowen

Edward Gregson

Celebration (1991)

Described by the composer as a “Praeludium for Wind, Brass, Percussion, Harp and Piano,” Edward Gregson's Celebration was commissioned by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Society for its 150th anniversary. Appropriately in the circumstances—though it lasts only about seven minutes and omits the strings—Celebration takes the form of a kind of concerto for orchestra, featuring the different sections in turn: first a fanfare with spatially separated trumpets and tubular bells, then a mainly scherzando section featuring trios of woodwind instruments with harp and percussion, followed by a chorale, a development of the first two sections, and finally a triumphant return of the chorale combined with echoes of the opening fanfare.

(All notes not credited are compiled by Frank L. Battisti)

Stephen Drury

Pianist Stephen Drury has concertized throughout the United States and the world with a repertoire that stretches from Bach to Liszt to the music of today. He has given solo performances at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C., at New York's Symphony Space, and from Arkansas to California to Hong Kong to Paris. Drury made a hugely successful Carnegie Hall debut in 1984 as the winner of the Concert Artists Guild International Competition, and has since given many solo performances at major concert halls throughout the world. In January 1997 he gave the world premiere of a piano concerto written for him by composer John Zorn at Carnegie Hall with the American Composers Orchestra and conductor Dennis Russell Davies, followed by a tour of European cities. Drury has commissioned new works for solo piano from John Cage, John Zorn, Terry Riley, and Chinary Ung.

A champion of twentieth-century music, Stephen Drury's recordings and performances of music ranging from the piano sonatas of Charles Ives to works by John Cage have received the highest critical acclaim. Drury has performed with symphony orchestras in San Diego, Cedar Rapids, San Angelo, Spokane, Portland (Maine) and Stamford as well as with the Romanian National Symphony. In 1997 Drury performed with all three of the “Boston” orchestras, playing Ives and Cage with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Ravel's Concerto in G with the Boston Philharmonic, and Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue to a cheering Boston Pops audience at Symphony Hall.

Mr. Drury is a native of Spokane, Wash., and earned his undergraduate degree from Harvard College. He also holds the prestigious Artist Diploma from New England Conservatory. His teachers have included Claudio Arrau, Patricia Zander, William Masselos, Margaret Ott, and Theodore Lettvin. He serves on the faculty of New England Conservatory and records for the BMG, Catalyst, Mode, and New Albion labels.

Frank L. Battisti

Conductor Frank L. Battisti is Director Emeritus of Wind Ensembles at New England Conservatory and throughout his career has developed a reputation as one of the most respected champions of music for winds in America. He is the past president of the College Band Directors National Association, and his articles on the wind ensemble, music education, and wind literature have been published by numerous national and international journals. Battisti is author of The Twentieth Century American Wind Band/Ensemble and The Winds of Change and co-author of the book Score Study. He has conducted professional, university, and school wind bands/ensembles in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Europe, Russia, Israel, Australia, and Asia. Founder and conductor emeritus of the Massachusetts Youth Wind Ensemble, Battisti also founded the World Association of Symphonic Bands and Ensembles (WASBE) in 1981. He has commissioned and conducted the premiere performances of numerous new works for wind ensemble, including works by Colgrass, Chavez, Persichetti, Bassett, Pinkham, Wilder, Benson, Tippett, Harbison, and Holloway. Critics, composers, and colleagues have praised Battisti for his outstanding performances and commitment to contemporary music.

In 1986 and again in 1993, Battisti was a visiting fellow at Clare Hall, Cambridge University, England. He has received many awards and honors including an Honorary Doctor of Music degree from Ithaca College in 1992, the first Louis and Adrienne Krasner Excellence in Teaching Award from New England Conservatory in 1997, the Lowell Mason Award from the Massachusetts Music Educators Association in 1998, the New England College Band Association's Lifetime Achievement Award in 1999, and the Midwest International Band and Orchestra Clinic's Medal of Honor in 2001.


New England Conservatory

ind Ensemble


The NEC Wind Ensemble is recognized as being one of the premiere ensembles of its kind in the United States and throughout the world. It has recorded for Centaur, Albany, and Golden Crest records and has had many of its performances and recordings broadcast on classical music radio stations throughout the country as well as on National Public Radio (NPR). In 1969 NEC President Gunther Schuller invited Frank L. Battisti to join the faculty and form a wind ensemble. Since then the NEC Wind Ensemble has presented hundreds of programs in Jordan Hall, traveled throughout the United States to perform concerts at music conferences, and for 25 years presented programs of chamber wind ensemble literature at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston.

The repertoire performed by the NEC Wind Ensemble consists of literature composed for woodwind, brass, and percussion instruments from the Renaissance to the twenty-first century. Many former NEC Wind Ensemble players now occupy important positions in major chamber, symphony orchestra, and opera companies throughout the world. The group's recordings and performances have continually won high praise from reviewers and critics: “The New England Conservatory Wind Ensemble performs … brilliantly!” (The Instrumentalist), “Artful and musically convincing … the NEC Wind Ensemble is a terrific machine!” (Richard Dyer, The Boston Globe).

New England Conservatory

Recognized nationally and internationally as a leader among music schools, New England Conservatory, the only music school in America to be designated a National Historic Landmark, was founded in 1867. New England Conservatory presents more than 600 free concerts each year in NEC's Jordan Hall and throughout New England. The college program instructs more than 750 undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral music students from around the world, and has a faculty of 225 artist-teachers and scholars.

Through its Preparatory School, School of Continuing Education, and Community Collaboration Programs for pre-college students, adults, and elders, NEC offers a complete music curriculum. Educated as complete musicians, NEC alumni fill orchestra chairs, concert hall stages, jazz clubs, and recording studios worldwide. Nearly half of the Boston Symphony Orchestra is composed of NEC faculty and alumni.