Dissertation on Divertissement for multiple woodwinds

A few years back I commissioned a piece, Divertissement by Sy Brandon for multiple woodwinds soloist with piano, with the help of a Co-op Press Commission Assistance Grant. Brian Levels, who was until recently a doctoral student at the University of North Texas, has written a dissertation on the piece, which is now available through the UNT Digital Library. Be sure to check out the dissertation, and, of course, the piece.

Divertissement for multiple woodwinds now available

Sy Brandon’s Divertissement for multiple woodwinds and piano is now available for purchase. If you’re a regular reader, you know that I commissioned this piece with funding from a Co-op Press Commission Assistance grant, and you have already read my series of blog posts about the genesis of Divertissement.

The piece is now available for purchase from the Co-op press website [update: now available from JW Pepper, with each movement sold separately]. It’s priced at an extraordinarily reasonable $6.95 for a PDF download (at the time of this writing), and U.S. customers can opt for a print copy for a still-affordable $16.95. The individual movements, any of which would make a charming short piece for a recital, are also available at just under two bucks apiece (PDF).

Among the few pieces in existence for multiple woodwinds soloist, this one has, in my opinion, the fewest logistical barriers to performance: it doesn’t require a large or unusual ensemble (just soloist and pianist), and it doesn’t require any unusual instruments, electronics, or other gear. There is also some flexibility in which instruments are used—movements may be selected from:

  1. Intrada (flute)
  2. Nocturne (alto saxophone)
  3. Valse (bassoon)
  4. Marche (clarinet)
  5. Romanza (oboe)
  6. Galop (piccolo/flute/oboe/clarinet/bassoon/alto saxophone, OR just piccolo)

For flute/clarinet/saxophone doublers, the Intrada, Nocturne, Marche, and Galop (piccolo version) would make quite a nice combination.

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Faculty woodwinds recital, Aug. 30, 2011

Bret Pimentel, woodwinds
Kumiko Shimizu, piano

Faculty Recital
Delta State University Department of Music
Recital Hall, Bologna Performing Arts Center
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
7:30 PM


Divertissement for multiple woodwinds and piano
Sy Brandon (b. 1945)
World premiere

  1. Intrada
  2. Nocturne
  3. Valse
  4. Marche
  5. Romanza
  6. Galop

Caprice en forme de valse for alto saxophone
Paul Bonneau (1918 – 1995)

Sonata for oboe and piano
Francis Poulenc (1899 – 1963)

  1. Elégie
  2. Scherzo
  3. Déploration

Sonata for clarinet and piano
Francis Poulenc

  1. Allegro tristamente
  2. Romanza
  3. Allegro con fuoco

Ode to a Toad
Ray Pizzi (b. 1943)

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Open rehearsal of Divertissement

I was pleased to have Dr. Sy Brandon, composer of the new work Divertissement for multiple woodwinds and piano, on campus at Delta State this week for a brief guest composer residency and an open rehearsal of the new piece. As you can see from the photo, I decided to play sitting down. The reason … Read more

Divertissement for multiple woodwinds and piano

I got this in the mail this week: The composer, Dr. Sy Brandon, will be in residence at the Delta State University Department of Music on Monday, Feb. 28. The agenda (forthcoming) will include an open rehearsal of Divertissement (with pianist Kumiko Shimizu) and a Q&A session with Dr. Brandon. Read more about Divertissement for … Read more

Multiple woodwinds commission, sixth movement (multiple woodwinds or piccolo)

Photo, vpickering

Dr. Sy Brandon has posted his work on the sixth and final movement of the Divertissement for multiple woodwinds soloist and piano.

In some early communication, Dr. Brandon suggested that this movement, the “Galop,” be written for piccolo. I was happy with this idea, and even dusted off my piccolo to start getting my chops in shape. But by the next day he had hit on a new idea that I liked even better: using the sixth movement to bring back each of the five previously-featured instruments in one tour-de-force finale.

While I was pleased to have this piece include a chance to show off my skills at switching instruments on the fly, I did think that this might limit the number of doublers who could perform the piece. I like the idea of a piece custom-tailored to my specific skill set, but, on the other hand, I would like to see the piece become a significant addition to the limited repertoire for woodwind doublers.

The problem, of course, is that a “doubler” might play any combination of instruments, and a piece for five specific instruments does drastically narrow the field of capable performers. My initial hope was that the piece might be adaptable to individual doublers’ abilities, either by selectively omitting movements or by providing alternate instrumentations.

Dr. Brandon, unsurprisingly, was two steps ahead of me. He has announced two different versions of the sixth movement: one version is for piccolo, and the other is for doubler playing flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, and saxophone—the instruments used individually in the preceding movements—plus a brief surprise appearance by the piccolo at the very end.

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Multiple woodwinds commission, fifth movement (oboe)

Sy Brandon has shared his work on the fifth movement of Divertissement, the newly-commissioned piece for multiple woodwinds soloist with piano. This movement, “Romanza,” features the oboe, and completes the total count of five woodwind instruments. Dr. Brandon has indicated that there are six movements planned, and I know he has been toying with the … Read more

Multiple woodwinds commission, fourth movement (clarinet)

Sy Brandon has posted his work on the fourth movement of Divertissement, the new piece for multiple woodwinds soloist. The movement, “Marche” for clarinet and piano, is energetic and full of humor. You can take a peek at the score and hear a (synthesized) recording [update: link dead].

Multiple woodwinds commission, third movement (bassoon)

I’m excited about the progress on Divertissement, the new piece for multiple woodwinds by Sy Brandon. He has posted his work on the third movement, the clever Valse for bassoon and piano. I’ve submitted a comment at his blog regarding some matters of tessitura. Dr. Brandon keeps comments under tight moderation, so my remarks may … Read more

A brief thought about new music for saxophone

Here’s a comment I made by email to Sy Brandon, regarding the saxophone movement of Divertissement, the new multiple woodwinds piece he is writing for me. So much contemporary saxophone music is bombastic and grating—I always make sure I bring some aspirin when I attend the saxophone conferences. But the saxophone has such wonderful lyrical … Read more