The fanfares

Malcolm MacDonald

The Fanfares - Malcolm MacDonald I have in fact arranged two fanfares from The Cenci, from Scenes Three and Seven respectively (it is the Scene Three one which Argo has recorded). In both cases I was struck by the way in which Brian began the scene with highy effective music for brass, or brass and percussion only, and I wondered if there was not some way of introducing this music to brass players even while the opera as a whole remained totally unknown. Neither opening section, however, made a complete piece on its own, and I was therefore faced with the problem of finding a "conclusion" from music that occurs later on in the respective scenes, in full-orchestral scoring. Structurally I don’t claim that my solutions are perfect, but I do think that they work which is the ultimate criterion).

As far as rearranging orchestral passages for brass and percussion is concerned, I had few real problems. While most orchestral composers tend to use the strings as the basis for their instrumentation, building up their sonorities on a rich carpet of string sound, in much of his mature music Havergal Brian seems to score outward from a central core of brass. I therefore preserved Brian’s own brass and percussion parts intact, and simply assigned the omitted orchestral voices to other members of the brass ensemble. The only drawback of this approach was the weakness of the brass in the very highest register - which prompted me to add a glockenspiel in some parts of the first fanfare.

I originally called the fanfare from Scene Three simply A Fanfare from "The Cenci", and it is this title under which Argo has recorded It. But when I arranged the Scene Seven fanfare a year later I gave both pieces titles referring to the location of the action at those particular points - Banqueting Scene and The Hall of Justice respectively. The Scene Three fanfare opens with a brilliant flourish (offstage in the original score) for four trumpets and continues in the opera with baleful processional music on low brass for the entry of Count Cenci and his guests at his celebratory banquet. From here I cut to a passage some minutes further on in the scene: Cenci’s announcement of the death of his sons, his invitation to the guests to rejoice with him, and his threat to any who try to leave. The switch to this later section occurs at the first cymbal-stroke: I am fairly proud of the "natural" sound of the join.

Several rhythmic figures from the earlier portion are found developed in the later, adding to the musical continuity. I have included a few phrases from Cardinal Camillo’s vocal line in solo trumpet, but the only "original composition" in the whole of the arrangement is the insertion of an extra semiquaver’s silence before the final chord, shoving it over the bar-line so that the fanfare ends on a downbeat lather than an upbeat - still with the sense of something suddenly cut off, though. The Hall of Justice fanfare has yet to be performed, though it may well sound more like a complete piece. Scene Seven of the opera concerns the trial of Beatrice Cenci, and my arrangement consists of the opening and closing measures of the scene, solemn and weighty music in great contrast to the more hectic portions of the other fanfare, linked by six spiky bars from the middle of the scene that uses the Count’s motive already familiar from the Preludio Tragico (which also appears in the final bars of the Scene).

© 1978 by Malcolm MacDonald

Newsletter, NL 16