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[#258] July 01, 2024

1965-66 | Orchestral Winds | Grade 5 | 5’ – 10’ | Tone poem

Austrian composer and conductor Ernst Krenek

Music for Woodwind and Brass by English composer Dame Elizabeth Maconchy is our Composition of the Week.

Music for Woodwind and Brass was premiered in 1966 by the Morley College Wind Ensemble, with Graham Treacher conducting, at the St John the Baptist with Our Lady and St Laurence Parish Church, at Thaxted, England.

“The work was conceived to make use of the architecture of the church, with the trombones processing up the aisle and the horns entering from the Lady Chapel. Liturgical, thematic material is stated by the trombones and trumpets in a gently moving 5/4, interspersed with trumpets building to a climax. Out of this are suspended pianissimo chords from the horns, slowly moving under expressive wind and trumpet solos. The third section is a fleet scherzando with a central lyrical meno mosso, leading into and providing a counter-subject to a restatement of the first theme before the final elegiac code.”
From Program Notes for Band


Music for Woodwind and Brass was brought to a second life in 1984 after being forgotten for 18 years thanks to Tim Reynish and his performance at the RNCM and subsequently performances at the 1991 WASBE Conference in Manchester.

The work is now regularly performed ever since, especially in the United Kingdom.

It is very concise in its form, and it is scored for orchestral winds, 2222/4331.Timp.

It has a duration of about 10 minutes, and it is available at Chester Music.


Dame Elizabeth Maconchy was born in England but spent much of her childhood in Ireland. When she arrived at the Royal College of Music in London in 1923, she had ability and persistence but lacked experience in listening to serious concert music. She won a few prizes and scholarships while studying with Charles Wood and Ralph Vaughan Williams. In 1929 she went to Prague after receiving the Octavia Traveling Scholarship and studied with Karel Boleslav Jirák. In 1930 the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra premiered her Concertino for piano and orchestra.


In addition to numerous musical awards and commissions during her lengthy career, Maconchy was named Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1977; Honorary Fellow of St. Hilda’s College, Oxford, in 1978; and Dame of the British Empire by the Queen in 1987.


Although Elizabeth Maconchy absorbed styles and techniques from her studies and environment, her music was peculiarly her own. Hugo Cole characterizes her works as being primarily contrapuntal, with short and compact motifs and much use of close canonic processes. Maconchy composed (among others) 27 orchestra works, separately and with soloists; 59 solo and chamber pieces; 42 choral works; six operas; three ballets; and several incidental pieces. Her Sinfonietta for orchestra (1975) was written 45 years after her Concertino for piano and orchestra; the string quartets were composed from 1933 to 1984. Her cantata Héloise and Abelard (1978) was her last large-scale work.


She was a key 20th century composer of the British music history. As a contemporary and musician, she is on a par with Benjamin Britten and Michael Tippett. She wrote large orchestral works, chamber music for different instrumentations and several stage plays. Her 13 string quartets represent an ultramodern style of the 1930s.

In volume 59 of “Studies on musical criticism and aesthetical research” („Studien zur Wertungsforschung”), biographical information and photo material on Maconchy are presented, compiled by their two daughters. They are supplemented by cultural-historical studies and work analyses that refer to Maconchy’s work. Furthermore, Annika Forkert discusses Maconchy in the context of Walton, Tippett and Britten, whereas Guido Heldt talks on music for solo instruments and ensemble. Later Christa Brüstle and Rhiannon Mathias deal with the string quartets while Sophia Leithold and Danielle Sofer are the first to elaborate analytically on the stage works “The Sofa” and “The Departure”.


The appendix includes texts on the music by Maconchy herself, a complete catalogue of works and a detailed bibliography. The two editors, associates at the University of Music and Performing Arts Graz, have created this volume after a conference about Maconchy.”



Other works for winds by Elizabeth Maconchy:


·      Wind Quintet, 19’ (1980)







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