Category Archives: Rehearsal Notes

Anton Reicha (1770 – 1836)

cropped-east-windies-logo-small-jpg3.pngAnton ReichaFriend of Beethoven, teacher of Lizst and Berlioz (among others of note), and childhood runaway: Anton Reicha succeeded in the 18th c music world of Vienna and Paris as prolific composer, music-educator and academic scholar.  Most famously, in Paris he consciously strove to establish the new wind quintet genre—to which end he contributed an astonishing 24 Quintets.   More on Reicha in subsequent posts:   we will be following his music (and that of Franz Danzi, a contemporary) over the next few months.
Image Search:  Anton Reicha.  “Anton Reicha:  Biography-Classic Cat”. 5.4.2016


The Inexorable Rise of Concert Pitch

EAST WINDIES LOGO small.jpg                  tuner korg
Image Search: Music Tuner.  “A Rough Guide to Compact Stage Tuners”. 21.03.2016

Most musicians are aware that concert pitch has risen in recent years, with current practice more or less around 440+ Hz. They may not know, however, that from the beginning of modern orchestras  (circa 1670) concert pitch rose from 392 Hz to a high of 452 Hz by the end of the 19th century.  Things were reset by international convention in 1939, back to 440 Hz where it more or less remains, albeit straining to rise yet again. The question is:  Why does this happen?  Jeremy Montagu (1) provides us a convincing analysis.  Simplifying his argument:   Larger middle-class public audiences meant Larger concert venues demanding increased instrumental forces to supply sufficient sound/audibility.  At the limit of this spiralling process (how big can a concert venue get, and how can you pay for more than around 100 musicians and still make a profit???), the only way to increase audibility was to modify instruments, to wit by increasing pitch.  Increased pitch ipso facto increased sound and brilliance.  And that, dear readers, is what is still going on.  (Otherwise we must resort to electric amplification, which not coincidentally is happening in parallel!).

1.  Montagu, Jeremy. Origins and Development of Musical Instruments. London: Scarecrow Press, 2007. Page 117.

Tips for Writing Your Next Wind Quintet

EAST WINDIES LOGO small.jpgHats off to Zeke Hecker and his article:   “On Composing for Woodwind Quintet”. kalvos.ord/heckless1.html. 5.03.2016.  Here’s a potted version of his timely advice:

music notes composing

Image: “Tips for composing Piano Music” 6.03.2016

Remember wind players have to breathe

unlike string players

Wind players need to rest

constant blowing is tough!

Avoid too much of the “pastoral” sound

wind instruments can do a lot morethey like to move it

Avoid a fixed hierarchy

share the tune around

Don’t use all five instruments all the time

the occasional embedded solo, duet or trio is rather nice

Extreme register tones (highs & lows) require dynamic discretion

example: real soft is fairly hard to do

Play around with rhythm

wind players are good at it

Stretch the classical wind quintet concept

include other members of the family—ex. the Eb clarinet

Try combining winds with other instruments

Piano, or a few strings are nice

Try transcribing as a practice exercise

 Piano music is easiest to start with

 And finally:  “Listen to reams of quintet music”

It’s Franz Danzi for Term 2

EAST WINDIES LOGO small.jpgOur East Windies study-repertoire for Term 2 includes some of Franz Danzi’s wind quintets. Edition Silvertrust comments that Danzi wrote for  “everyman – the average player – and not for players of a virtuoso calibre”. (1)  This is in immediate contrast to Reicha’s quintets, which can seem virtuosic by comparison.  Our initial plan is to compare Danzi’s first quintet written in 1821 (Opus 56, no. 1) with his last one, written possibly in 1824 (Opus 68, no. 3).  We’ll be looking for melodic and structural changes as Danzi settled in to composing in the quintet genre.  Of the final quintet, Edition Silvertrust writes:  “In many ways it is the summation of his art with respect to this type of composition: appealing melodies, concisely wrought with excellent part writing”. (2)  A very nice performance of Opus 68 by the Berlin Philharmonic Wind Quintet is available on iTunes.

Franz Danzi Colour 
Coloured version of Danzi’s Portrait.  
Search by Image – Franz Danzi. 10.03.16
  1. “ Franz Danzi – Wind Quintet in d minor Op.68 No.3”.                     accessed 10.3.2016.
  2. Ibid.



Seeking the Chalumeau

EAST WINDIES LOGO small.jpgTalking about early instruments, we came to  the CHALUMEAU…that elusive late 17th c pre-cursor to modern clarinets. Here is a handsome modern replica chalumeau in C, with enlarged bell.  It is likely that the originals…sadly difficult to find these days…. had a straight bore with no bell .  Images from (left) and (right)









In the beginning

It’s early days but we already have a great sound.  We were pretty surprised to like playing Cambini (1746-1825)…so much that we’ll probably try another quintet (he wrote 3) before moving on to Danzi and Reicha.  The dessert was great! (Pinterest recipe for lemon merinque pie)…..


CAMBINI   Guiseppe Cambini