Top Five Fanfares

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Hot Air, our month-long celebration of woodwind and brass sections on WQXR, might as well be called a fanfare for these instruments. What could be more fitting than celebrating their contributions to music than with fanfares, which the American Heritage dictionary defines as a flourish of brass instruments?

1. Aaron Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man was commissioned as one of a series of 18 Fanfares for the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra’s 1942-43 season. Each piece honored a part of the American War effort. Though composers such as Virgil Thomson and William Grant Still contributed pieces, only Copland’s remains in the current repertory. Boosey & Hawkes, the musical publisher, call it the most famous American fanfare except for Hail to the Chief.

2. J.J. Mouret wrote Sinfonies de Fanfares in the early 18th century, but it took a 20th century invention, BBC’s Masterpiece Theatre, to popularize his work -- or at least the Rondeau. The complete set of four fanfares haven’t achieved the same level of fame.

3. Janacek spoke of his Sinfonietta as a military symphony. It grew out of a set of fanfares he was commissioned to compose for a gymnastics competition called the Sokol slet. The first movement is appropriately titled Fanfares and is scored for trumpets, tubas and timpani.

4. Technically it’s called the Triumphal March or Grand March, but the horn arrangement accompanying Radamess' victorious return to Egypt in Verdi’s opera Aida is essentially a fanfare. The music is not just a showpiece for the trumpet section, but also houses' set designers, costumers, animal wranglers, chorus and supernumeraries.

5. John Adams calls Short Ride in a Fast Machine a fanfare for orchestra. Then he explained his title with a question: “You know how it is when someone asks you to ride in a terrific sports car, and then you wish you hadn’t?” Though it contains the same minimalist devices found in his operas and larger works, it maintains a breakneck pace and exudes energy with help from a wood block and a blaring brass section. 


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Comments [3]

John J Palatucci from Verona, NJ

I have two favorite fanfares. The first is Richard Strauss' "Fierlicher Einzug." I first heard it as a teenager on a wonderful Columbia Masterworks LP from the 1970's that included the great organist E. Power Biggs and a large group of NYC's top brass players at the time.

The second is not so much a single fanfare but a performance of the music from the archery contest scene in the 1938 classic "Adventures of Robin Hood" starring Errol Flynn. The performance was live by the NY Philharmonic with John Mauceri of the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra conducting.
The scene was projected against the back wall of Avery Fisher Hall's stage and I have never heard a brass section play so loud for so long before or since.


Nov. 22 2010 06:56 PM
Rich from The Bronx

The fanfare for the jousting tourament by Franz Waxman in his score for the 1950's film "Prince Valiant". A real rouser. It's included in Charles Gerhardt's recording of the suite from the score.

Nov. 17 2010 02:54 PM
Michael Klein

I am Michael Klein, the owner of King's Brass. I want to thank you for posting a picture of my company accompanying this article. At Juilliard I was introduced to the magical work of fanfares. For the past 22 years I have been honored to provide them for countless weddings, and corporate events all over the tri-state area. Fanfares are exciting, majestic, and the perfect addition to any special event. Thank you for celebrating them at this special time of year!

Michael Klein
King's Brass Music
(516) 485-4717

Nov. 16 2010 01:27 PM

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