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Three Pieces for Brass Quintet

Three Pieces for Brass Quintet

Gale, Jack


  • Ensemble: Brass Quintet
  • Genre: Modern Classical
  • Grade: 5
  • Duration: 7.0 minutes
  • Catalog Number: AOS1626

A modern, three-movement work composed in 1975.   These are moderately difficult but playable by most groups with adequate rehearsal.

Performance Notes

The first movement is in two tempi. Bars 1 thru 22 are in Tempo I. Bars 6 thru 9 are equal to one beat each. Bars 23 & 24 accelerando to Tempo II. There is a pause at bar 30 while the Tuba mute is removed. The next bars are cadenza-like. Tempo II returns at bar 34 where, as before, the sixteenth note remains constant. Tempo I returns at bar 38. At bar 59 the Trumpets remain at Tempo I while the Horn, Trombone, and Tuba begin a brighter 6/8 march tempo, repeating the two-bar phrase until the Trumpets reach the fermata. Then the trombonist gives the cue for bar 63. The movement concludes in Tempo I. 

The second movement is in tempo until bar 22 where, for five bars, the tempo and duration are ad-lib except the quarter notes are to be played in strict order. The holds at 27 & 28 should be fairly short and the tempo returns at bar 30.

Jack Gale's Three Pieces for Brass Quintet employs compositional techniques that require a refined skills and extreme versatility by each player in the group. Perhaps this statement by the composer pertaining to a similar work provides ideal context and insight into this work “I was interested in writing a twelve-tone piece that was exciting harmonically, melodically and tonally, but was playable and had a familiar continuity rather than abstract notes. In other words, I wanted to write a twelve-tone piece that didn't sound like a twelve-tone piece or artificial.”

The first movement opens with exquisitely dissonant harmonies with a rhythmic intensity that would stretch and challenge even the most advanced performers. Several tempo changes occur throughout the opening; thus, each player should be aware of how their individual part fits with the other four. The second movement is quite brief and begins with a soft dynamic with each player marked as “muted.” Mute selection would play a vital role in the timbre and could easily alter the perception and impression of this movement. Despite the steady and persistent beat, this movement demands even more concentration from the players than the first movement. After the opening, the sporadic rhythms and pitches traded off by each instrument in the “ad lib” section create a sense of daze for the listener. However, few seemingly simultaneous octave unison unify the movement and bring order to the chaos. The tone clusters in the final measures are slightly bewildering yet satisfying. Each part in the very short finale demonstrates lyricism and technique in an abrupt and dramatic fashion. Halfway through the finale, the second trumpet part presents an abstract and allusive solo line followed by a free, “ad lib,” notated solo by the first trumpet. This brings the piece to a sudden yet pleasing conclusion.

Although this work requires a high level of expertise, it is engaging, and Gale is to be praised for his exquisite showcase of imagination and dexterity for brass. It should only be attempted by the most advanced players who are capable of accomplishing the sudden dynamic and stylistic changes that are required while simultaneously displaying a highly refined technical facility. This work would likely be enjoyed on a brass chamber performance or contemporary works recital. Take heed, however, as the preparation time could be immense in order to execute the work at a high level

Lacey Phelps, executive director, DFW Brass; music recruiter, Southern Nazarene University, Bethany, OK
January 2024 ITG Journal

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