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I have created this site in order to provide performers, listeners and composers with a description of a composer's experiences with the creative process. The posts will provide discussions of the inspirations, challenges, and successes of a composer from the inception of the piece to the culmination in performance. I will provide a link to where you can see and hear the works in progress. Comments and questions are always welcomed. They will not posted unless you grant me permission.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Transcription of Bach Orchestra Suite No. 1 - Overture

Hello readers,

I have been busy of late doing several arrangements. Some have been fairly simple in that I have been taking some of my brass trio arrangements and converting them to a woodwind trio of flute, clarinet and bassoon. I did this at the request of Susan Maxwell, Instructor of Bassoon at Kansas State University. She plays in a trio of violin, clarinet and bassoon and the woodwind trio instrumentation adapts well for her group and is more common for potential sales of the transcriptions.

My latest project is doing several arrangements for the Hartt School Reed Quintet. This an excellent group of graduate students consisting of oboe, saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet, and bassoon. The first piece I am working on is the Bach Orchestra Suite No. 1.

Since the instrumentation of the original is two oboes, bassoon and strings, I decided to use a soprano saxophone for one of the oboe parts as it will blend well with the oboe. Once I decided on the exact instrumentation, I had two other major problems to consider. The first is adapting the articulation for the instruments. I decided to leave the slow sections unmarked and just used Maestoso as a tempo indicator to suggest a detached, slightly accented style. I used two slurred and two tongued for the sixteenth note patterns in the fast section and slurred the two sixteenths into the next eight for that pattern. At this tempo, this simplifies the articulation for the wind players and is very idiomatic.

The second problem was to allow the musicians time to breathe and rest. Most of the Overture is in four parts even though there are seven different instrumental parts. The five instruments in the quintet enables me to rest someone every once in a while. My challenge was to keep everyone in a good sounding range if I rested someone. The instrumentation I chose has basically three soprano register instruments and two bass register instruments. Both the clarinet and the bass clarinet could be used for the viola line which is mainly an alto register instrument. For the slow section of the Overture, I used the clarinet for the viola line and doubled the bass line in the bass clarinet and bassoon. In measures 10 & 11, I was able to rest the oboe for a few beats by giving the bass clarinet the viola line. An oboist will have the most endurance problems in this instrumental combination as he/she needs to time to exhale the stale air in his/her body since so little air goes through the reed while performing.

At measure 18, the Allegro section, I have the soprano sax playing the first entrance, the clarinet playing the second entrance, the bassoon playing the third entrance (viola) and the bass clarinet playing the fourth entrance (bass line). This works well until measure 24 where the viola line became too high for bassoon. Here I brought the oboe back in and shifted everyone up a part and it gave the bassoonist a chance to rest.

When the piece becomes a trio at measure 29, I use the soprano saxophone for the 1st oboe part, the oboe for the second oboe part and the bassoon for the bassoon part. I marked the trio sections mp as opposed to the tutti sections as mf to help create the needed contrast. Both the clarinet and bass clarinet gets a little rest here. The only one who hasn't rested much is the soprano saxophone and I'll keep that in mind as I move forward.

As you can see, there is a lot that goes into making and effective arrangement. For now, I left the key as it was in Bach as it seems to work well regarding range and transposed key. If needed, I can change it to another key later.

To see and hear what I have discussed, go to http://www.cooppress.net/bach_orchestra_suite_blog.html. You will be viewing a transposed score.

As always, your comments are appreciated.

Dr. B

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