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SINFONIA V: SYMPHONIA SACRA ET PROFANA for concert band (symphonic wind ensemble)

Sinfonia V: Symphonia Sacra et Profana by Timothy Broege. Hear streaming audio on this page. Suitable for college bands, 7 minutes duration, Grade 5.


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Sinfonia V: Symphonia Sacra et Profana was composed in the Summer of 1973 at Brielle, New Jersey, on commission from the University City High School Wind Ensemble of University City, Missouri; it was premiered by that group in 1974. Subsequently the work was taken up by such distinguished conductors as Eugene Corporon, Thomas Dvorak, Craig Kirchhoff, and H. Robert Reynolds, receiving numerous performances in the United States, Canada and England. Since its publication by Manhattan Beach Music in September of 1989 it has also traveled to Japan and Australia, and has become standard repertoire for high school as well as college bands and wind ensembles.

Sinfonia V is both a musical diary and a musical collage. I incorporated several musics that were much on my mind at the time the work was written, including ragtime, which I had been studying intently for several years, as well as the plainchant hymn, "Divinum Mysterium," which the choir of First Presbyterian Church, Belmar, New Jersey (where I was, and still am, organist and director of music) had used as a processional at Christmas time. If one imagines dialing across the FM radio band in a large city such as New York, the resulting collage (or, to be more accurate, montage, as in film editing) might include a bit of early music (the Pavanne, and the chorales by Samuel Scheidt), some ragtime or jazz, some contemporary music, some voices, some instruments, et cetera.

At the same time, Sinfonia V contrasts secular musics -- such as the Pavanne and the ragtime fragments -- with sacred musics such as the Scheidt chorales and the plainchant hymn. There is no attempt to reconcile these two musical traditions, and the work ends in ambiguity.

Some listeners have found humor in it. I am not so sure. Here are some of the musics I was working with in the Summer of 1973, assembled in what I hope is a convincing musical structure -- no padding, no transitions, no note-spinning. The piece aims to be both concise and kaleidoscopic, profound as well as entertaining, sacred and profane.

Composer's Notes

1. The Electric Piano part calls for an instrument with variable tremolo or vibrato. Recommended is the Fender Rhodes electric piano. The indication -- 'Piano' -- calls for a standard concert grand piano with lid up or removed. Volume levels between electric piano and grand piano should be comparable. Electric piano should not dominate the ensemble.

2. Certain parts of the score call for improvisation. Instructions are self-explanatory. The indication -- 'sostenuto' -- implies smooth and fairly slow improvisation, often using held notes. See pages 15 & 16. The indication -- 'marcato' -- implies rather fast and active improvisation, using short, fast notes, and sudden shifts of accent and rhythm. See pages 19 & 20. The instruction to imitate another improvisation implies approximate imitation, relating more to figuration and style, than to actual pitch or range.

3. Movement III incorporates two chorales in harmonizations by Samuel Scheidt: "Herr Jesu Christ, Du höchstes Gut," and "O grosser Gott von Macht." Movement VII incorporates a 12th century plainsong hymn as well as a Pavanne by Pierre Attaignant. The ragtime fragments in the piece are original.

4. Care must be taken to observe all marks of 'I. solo,' 'I. only,' and 'a 2.' Dynamics should be closely adhered to, even if in places some instruments may be briefly covered by other louder instruments.

5. All instruments are notated at playing, i.e., transposed pitch where applicable.

Percussion assignments

Percussion I: woodblock, snare drum, suspended cymbal, four Chinese temple blocks, finger cymbals.

Percussion II: cowbell, claves, cymbals (2 plates), maracas, tambourine, tam-tam, triangle.

Percussion III: vibraphone, xylophone, bass drum, orchestra bells, ratchet

Percussion IV: timpani, bongos (2)

Copyright © 1999 Manhattan Beach Music. All Rights Reserved.

Performance by Eugene Corporon conducting the Michigan State University Wind Symphony.

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