Henry Brant: Music for Massed Flutes

Composer(s): Henry Brant
Album Title: Henry Brant: Music for Massed Flutes 
Cat. No.: 80636
Genre: Classical
Release Date: 07/2006
Description: The New York Flute Club, Robert Aitken, soloist and conductor; Frederick Wilkins, soloist; Henry Brant, conductor (Angels and Devils)

The long and illustrious career of American composer Henry Brant (born 1913) can be framed with the music he has written for the flute. The Pulitzer Prize–winning composer's three epic works for multiple flutes do not fit into any standard category of instrumentation or form; rather, they span the creative life of a man who for all of his life has been referred to as a "maverick," a "pioneer," an "experimentalist," and, since the 1950s, the "world's leading composer of ‘spatial' music," in which the placement of the musicians around the performance space is as important a compositional element as the timbre, time, or pitch. It is with the development of his use of space as an intrinsic part of his musical vocabulary that Brant established himself as a major figure in American music of the twentieth century.

Brant wrote Angels and Devils (1931), now recognized as the first flute orchestra or "flute choir" piece of the twentieth century, in 1931 at the age of 18, after having heard a performance of Stravinksy's Symphony of Psalms and being struck by the unique use of five flutes in the orchestration. This recording of Angels and Devils is a re-mastering of the historic LP released on CRI in 1956. Brant's compositional precociousness in this seminal work is creative and sophisticated. The harmonic language features a generous use of jazz-like polychords with up to eleven notes, one pitch for each instrument, alternating with a playfully light, less dense "normal" harmonic vocabulary, often borrowing from the popular music language of his musical environment.

The Mass in Gregorian Chant for Multiple Flutes [1984] (subtitled Mass for June 16), composed in 1984, is scored for as many flutists as possible with approximately twenty percent of the flutists doubling on piccolo, all playing material provided in the Graduale Romanum for masses sung on June 16. The source material, a book which contains the Gregorian chant for the entire liturgical year, and music of this period in general have always held an interest for Henry Brant; certainly the frequently antiphonal nature of its performance in the great acoustics of the European cathedrals is an influence on his interest in creating a spatial component for his own work.

Ghosts and Gargoyles (2001) is scored for solo flute (also playing piccolo and bass flute) with an octet comprised of piccolos, C-flutes, alto flutes and bass flutes, plus a jazz drummer. The stage is occupied only by the soloist, the conductor and the jazz drummer. The four duos of the octet are located in the four corners of the hall. Occasional quotations from ecclesiastic music by Allegri (1580–1662) and Palestrina (1525–1594) are intended to suggest ghostly intimations. Ghosts and Gargoyles was envisaged as a quasi-sinister 70-years-later sequel to Brant's much-performed Angels and Devils
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