VARIATIONS ON LAUDATE DOMINUM - Parts & Score, TEST PIECES (Major Works)

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VARIATIONS ON LAUDATE DOMINUM - Parts & Score, TEST PIECES (Major Works)

Cat No. JM37687
Price £59.95
Composer / arranger: Edward Gregson
Category: TEST PIECES (Major Works)

Please note that this is the revised version.

Programme note
The theme is a noble hymn tune by Sir Hubert H. Parry, associated with the words ‘0 praise ye the Lord’. There are seven variations, the seventh of which is a fugato which introduces half of the tune in long notes. The theme is not presented in full until the end, when it is heard in its full majesty and the music brought to a tremendous and climactic conclusion.

Variations on ‘Laudate Dominum’ (revised version)
Comments by Lieut-Colonel Dr Ray Steadman-Allen O.F.
This publication — as far as I am aware — is a historical landmark in The Salvation Army brass band catalogue, being the first individual music work to be reissued with revision. In the vocal field, the late General Evangeline Booth’s Songs of the Evangel was updated and reissued, but otherwise non-anthology publications have been in the direction of new works. Elsewhere, there are instances of composers issuing revisions. Others may feel that, given the years of experience and development, they could improve early work (the present writer among them) though it might be a debatable exercise.

Edward Gregson’s Variations on ‘Laudate Dominum’ (which I had the privilege of handling for its first publication) had immediate and continuing popularity. The widening market has doubtless encouraged the work’s expansion; not a working over, as Gregson has wisely retained the freshness of his original, inserting two new movements, from section M to the end of BB. My editorial comments below are substantially those issued at the time of first publication.
The theme, by Sir Hubert H. Parry, is a noble one and the variations — whilst of course demonstrating the idioms of a later age — preserve the sense of spacious elevation. There are seven variations, the theme being heard in full only at the end. The variations were written in connection with a visit to Britain of the London Citadel (Ontario) Band, the bandmaster at the time being the composer’s brother, Bramwell.

Introduction. The music begins with two strong Trombone statements of the opening notes of the theme, answered by the full ensemble; this is striking in effect, Aim at securing compact chords and measured rhythmic shapes. At the fifth bar, the Comets and Trombones have a short fanfare-like figure leading to a massive fortissimo tutti. In order to ensure that these bars are really climactic, the conductor should discipline his forces, keeping the preceding forte markings proportional to the fortissimo. Over a held pedal chord, we now have little statements of the theme-fragment which usher in the ostinato bass pattern of the first variation. These four bars ought to be delicate, with a hint of suspense. The Glockenspiel adds a delightful touch of colour.

Variation I (Sections B & C). Lightly-pointed Basses maintain an ostinato figure over which a melody is developed. Keep the tempo steady as any rushing will spoil the poise of the tune. The contrapuntal effect when the Comets take over the melodic line is most intriguing. Section C will probably require rather closer study; note the composer’s sub-division of the 7/8: two crotchet beats remain as in the previous bars, followed by what amounts to a beat and a half which many of us would conduct as a third crotchet beat plus an upbeat quaver, thinking ‘one-two-three-and’.

Variation II (Sections D — G). There is a gentle, pastorale suggestion about the Siciliana. Very few, if any, problems are envisaged. The music is on the quiet side and anything of the dramatic would be right out of character; therefore, give the melodic phrases a singing quality, definitely nothing of the bravura or semi-epic. The composer has created much tranquil beauty from a quite simple device - which is a not inconsiderable test of compositional technique and imagination. Remember too the fact that the variations offer contrast with each other; to take the listeners gently through the peaceful meadows will make for strong contrast with the driving, vital rhythms of the next variation.

Variation III (Sections H — L). This variation is something of a field day for the percussionists! Here, amid stabbing and stimulating figurations, they come into their own, almost in the forefront of affairs; subtly, however, to begin with. Almost on tiptoe, hints of what is to come are given, there is even a lessening of volume, and then, suddenly, the full robust weight is unleashed. Precisely-attacked chords respond in alternation with yet another bass ostinato — how effective this is in performance! Then comes the strong line, punched home time and .time again. Crisp clarity must be attained all the time, as well as a strictly controlled tempo. Whilst this is exciting music, caution must be taken to ensure it never becomes coarse; we are playing music, not emptying sacks of coal. At Section J comes contrast- in-unity in the form of a chorale (easily recognised as a minor form of the theme), which is to be presented in an appropriately sustained manner. Other than a careful eye being kept on the neat dovetailing of the various interjecting parts (also at the end of the section) no special advice need be offered.

Variation IV (Sections M — S). Based on the opening phrase of the tune, freely flowing, delightfully refusing to be bound to a rigid metrical pattern, the little flurry of quavers in bar 5 is gradually developed, at times reaching a sense of moto perpetuo. This, with the ever-present theme motzf is the variation. The design is no textbook, straight-jacket structure; the flowering of the ideas is quite fascinating. While our comments are often related to the rehearsing of component parts, what is paramount here must be a sense of forward movement, almost artless and wayward. The work is healthily ‘open’ in keeping not only with Parry’s gracious tune but what the hymn itself is saying: ‘0 praise ye the Lord’. In fact, a reading of the words is recommended as they give a strong clue to the ‘feel’ (not the sequence) of the total music. The handling of Section S is crucial: a slowing to provide the necessary poise for the launch into the next variation. Control this passage firmly but also sensitively.
Variation V (Sections T — BB). A tarantella! A leaping dance which, we are told, is linked with the bite of the tarantula spider in the area of Taranto, southern Italy. The article in The Oxford Companion to Music makes diverting reading, even if of no practical value to the matter in hand! Suffice to comment that the sparkling and rhythmic nature of the dance music calls for a light, deft touch. Make the utmost of the dynamics and devices. I have sometimes heard trombone glissandi which, with a desire to stay ‘musical’, have been over-refmed. Nonetheless, avoid the other extreme! As each variation has its own character, this one is governed by a sense of fun. At Section BB, maintain balance where the upper cornet trio hand over to back-bench colleagues to complete the figure.
Variation VI (Sections CC — FF). In this variation a sober mood prevails. The design consists of a tune (Euphonium); a middle section which passes thematic fragments around the band; a return to the tune, this time using the full band with the tune in octaves.
Variation VII (Sections GG — PP). The final variation is not claiming to be a strict fugue, the purposes of the music are judged to be best served by treating a long fugue subject on fugal lines (the three entries preserving tonic tonality) and then moving toward a long-note theme with the general pattern being maintained in a counter-thematic role (counter in the sense of being a counterpoint to the canto fermo, long-note theme). Everything has to be light: comment was made earlier about coal sacks, this is not the cart horse! Lumpy playing will unfortunately make it just that, so beautifully articulated notes, precisely played, blended, unified and with just that amount of rhythmic bounce is the formula to sensitively reproduce the composer’s intention. His scoring ensureS the requisite prominence being given to the theme.
From Section JJ and into Section KK there is some development of the first fugal phrase; the style is maintained, but mentally look forward to the eighth bar of Section KK where the big tune, of which these bars are a prelude or herald, begins; you are building up to the big entry. When it arrives, the tune is lengthy and might be short-winded in the playing. Every effort must be made to sustain. Perhaps some organisation of staggered breathing might be considered. At Section MM, a further statement of the fugal theme is commenced; some more development then leads to the hymn tune in full.
Theme and Finale (Section 00). Breadth and majesty should characterise the playing. Do keep it controlled! Having delivered himself of his subject, the composer does not spend a lot of time in peroration. Keep the tautness of it all through to the final tremendous climax — and let there be no inhibitions about making the fullest possible impact with the percussion ‘thunder’.

Programme note
The theme is a noble hymn tune by Sir Hubert H. Parry, associated with the words ‘0 praise ye the Lord’. There are seven variations, the seventh of which is a fugato which introduces half of the tune in long notes. The theme is not presented in full until the end, when it is heard in its full majesty and the music brought to a tremendous and climactic conclusion.

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