The Festival Prelude
Originally written to inaugurate the five-manual organ in Vienna’s Konzerthaus, this work has become one of the most widely accepted contest/festival pieces in the modern concert band repertoire. Based entirely on one theme and two fanfare-like figures that occur throughout, this is an extremely effective opening piece that builds to a power-soaked conclusion.
This is a grand opening fanfare composed for Brass Quintet (2 Bb trumpets, French horn, trombone and tuba) and Timpani. It was originally written for the opening of a festival or similar event and it is a very widely accepted contest/festival work.
It is built entirely from one main theme and two fanfare-like figures that occur throughout the score. After an opening flourish develops from the first of these fanfare figures, the main theme is stated in a sweeping unison of Woodwinds and Saxophones with interjections of Brass. This builds to a powerful climax, followed by another statement of the first fanfare figure.
This then leads into a flowing variation on the main theme, with the orchestral strings (violas and cellos divided) providing a rich, saturated sonority. The piece then concludes with a final statement of the main theme, developed in massive Brass chords to a thundering finale. In addition to this, the work includes a short coda, building and developing a contrasting theme.
The Festival Prelude is curated by four practicing theatre artists whose disciplines range from playwriting to dramaturgy to directing and hybrid artistry. And unlike other festivals with staid artistic teams where you can count on seeing certain kinds of theater, at Prelude the programming is always changing.
This is because the team at Prelude carefully tries to keep with Hentschker’s idea that a theater festival should preserve and build on the advantage of its community. And that means reverberating with the community aspirations and needs.
The euphonium-driven opening of the piece gives way to a flowing theme that gradually develops through layers of musical texture, reaching a climax at measure 83. From there, the second fanfare figure resumes and leads to a resplendent conclusion. Throughout, the orchestra plays with a sense of democratic purpose. Neither the low instruments nor the brasses establish themselves as dominant, and thus the work avoids the kind of sterile dualism that would give it a “contest” feel.
This spirited and virtuosic composition is perfect for any festival, concert or other musical event. Its bright and cheerful theme is augmented by fanfare-like figures throughout the piece, creating a rich, saturated sonority that is sure to impress audiences.
The music builds on this theme as it progresses through several variations, culminating in the organ’s resumption of its opening chords as the work fades to a resplendent C major. The theme is then reworked and transformed with different orchestral colors before the final variation brings it all together again for a triumphant conclusion.
In addition to being used as stand-alone pieces, preludes were incorporated by some 20th century composers into Baroque-inspired suites. Maurice Ravel’s Le tombeau de Couperin (1914/17) and Arnold Schoenberg’s Genesis Suite are examples of this.
Frederic Chopin wrote a set of 24 piano preludes, Op. 28, which cycle through the major and minor keys (the odd numbered ones are in the major key, while the even numbered ones are in the minor). Charles-Valentin Alkan, however, employed a different scheme in his set of 25 preludes that ascend chromatically.
Loosely based on the opening fanfare, this thrilling and energetic closer ties your program together and sends your audience home in high spirits. This is a great way to bring your festival to a close, or it can also be used as an encore.
This piece was written in honor of the 25th anniversary of the Tri-State Music Festival, held annually in Enid, Oklahoma. It is one of the most powerful and brilliant works for concert band available by this American composer. Its expressive themes are derived from many different sources, including Native and folk influences in Antonin Dvorak, New England church hymns in Charles Ives, traditional Romanticism in Amy Beach, and modern-day lyricism by Chris Rogerson.