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History, Analysis, & Pedagogy:

First Suite in E-flat


(Chaconne, Intermezzo, March)
by Gustav Holst
Edited by Colin Matthews

Grade Level: 4

Jessica Sebold
Materials for Band
Unit Study

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Table of Contents

History
About the Composer 3
About the Piece 4
Historical Perspective 5

Analysis

Instrumentation 6
Form & Structure 7
Harmony 9
Timbre 9
Melody 10
Rhythm 11
Stylistic Considerations 11
Compositional Considerations 12

Pedagogy
Ensemble Objectives 14
Concepts & Teaching Strategies 16
Instrument Considerations 20
Glossary of Terms 25

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History

About the Composer:

“A native of England, Gustav Holst showed musical talent from an early age
on the piano and violin, but problems with neuritis and asthma limited his practice
to piano instead of violin. His early employment as a church organist and choir
director created a lifelong interest in choral music. While studying composition at
the Royal College of Music Holst was heavily influenced by the music of Wagner
and fellow student Ralph Vaughan Williams. During this time Holst’s neuritis
worsened, and he gave up the piano for the trombone, believing it would both
improve his lung capacity and give him greater insight into composing for
orchestra.
As an adult Holst was a complex persona: friendly in private but aloof in
public; eager to write music for schools but a member of the Hammersmith (a
southwest London suburb) Socialist club; and intensely interested in earlier British
composers like Purcell but keenly interested in Hindu philosophy. He had many
failures as a composer, especially in his operas. Many of his compositions for
orchestra were viewed in Britain as too esoteric and complex for audiences to
understand. This rejection, coupled with a grueling schedule as lecturer at Harvard
in 1932, affected his nerves and health to the point that he was sometimes ordered
to take vacations; he was eventually diagnosed with a duodenal ulcer.
One of the few major successes in his life was The Planets, which was
lauded both in Britain and abroad. His long professional and personal association
with the St. Paul Girl’s School in the working-class suburb of Hammersmith led
him to create many works for choir and string orchestra. Although many consider
The Planets to be his best work, his daughter, Imogen Holst, contended that Gustav
considered the wind ensemble work Hammersmith: Prelude and Scherzo to be his
finest composition.”

– Teaching Music Through Performance, Volume 1

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About the Piece:

“Little is known about the origins of the Suite in E-flat except the year of its
composition, kept in Holst’s source-notebook under the page for the year 1909,
upon which Holst wrote “first Suite for Military Band, op. 28a.” No printed parts
existed until Boosey and Co. printed a set of parts in 1921, and no full score
existed until 1948. In the 1948 score, Boosey added parts for contrabass clarinet,
baritone saxophone, bass saxophone, flugelhorn, and horn 3-4. Boosey omitted the
second E-flat clarinet and baritone, changed the two specified F horns to E-flat
horns, and updated the “bombardons” and “side drum” to “basses” and “snare
drum.” This score and set of parts was the only authoritative version until Colin
Matthews’ edition of 1984.
Matthews’ score achieves a nice balance between the original version of
Holst’s parts (playable by only nineteen musicians) and the needs of the modern
band by including the indication ad lib. on parts that are doubled and/or
unnecessary. Matthews also eliminated the parts for the antiquated D-flat
flute/piccolo, flugelhorn, and E-flat horn.
Although it wasn’t until 1920 before the first known performance of the
Suite in E-flat took place, the composition immediately gained wide respectability
and acclaim. Today, most professional conductors consider this composition by
Holst to be the first major original work for the concert band genre, and it is still
today a cornerstone of band repertoire. With a duration of approximately 10:30, the
three movements (“Chconne,” “Intermezzo,” and “March”) of the First Suite in E-
flat are a fine example of Holst’s solid writing in the British tradition.”

– Teaching Music Through Performance, Volume 1

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Historical Perspective:
“Prior to 1909 there were only a few original compositions for band
excepting marches, transcriptions, and “novelty” repertoire. Gossec’s Symphonie
Militaire en Fa (1794) and Berlioz’s Symphonie Funébre et Triomphale (1840) are
two of the precious few examples of serious music that composers wrote
exclusively for winds and percussion. These early compositions were written for
groups like the Guard Republicaine of Paris, and from that time until the twentieth
century, military bands and the professional bands of Sousa, Gilmore, etc., were
the only notable groups performing this type of literature. Although the Suite
contains a march, it is part of an organic whole in three sections, all composed of
original material.
The Suite was revolutionary in its treatment of the parts of the band as
soloists. Earlier music for band included numerous doublings, and it was expected
that there could be any number of players on one part. Holst, however, envisioned
the Suite in E-flat as a collection of soloists, and there are frequent instances of de
facto chamber music.
The other two notable composers of early-twentieth-century British band
music are Gordon Jacob and Ralph Vaughan Williams, and they wrote nothing for
band until after the 1920 premiere of Holst’s Suite. In many senses, this
composition is the progenitor of music for concert band as we know it.”

– Teaching Music Through Performance, Volume 1

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Analysis
Duration: Approx. 10:30

Published in 1984, Boosey & Hawkes/Hal Leonard

Grade Level: 4

Instrumentation

C Flute & Piccolo 1st Bb Cornet

1st & 2nd Oboe 2nd Bb Cornet

Eb Clarinet 1st & 2nd Bb Trumpet

Solo Bb Clarinet 1st & 2nd Horn in F

1st Bb Clarinet 3rd & 4th Horn in F

2nd Bb Clarinet 1st Trombone

3rd Bb Clarinet 2nd Trombone

Bb Bass Clarinet 3rd Trombone

1st & 2nd Bassoon Euphonium

Eb Alto Saxophone Basses

Bb Tenor Saxophone String Bass

Eb Baritone Saxophone Timpani

Bb Bass Saxophone Percussion

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Form & Structure

Movement 1 – Chaconne

The first movement is written as a passacaglia, or theme and variations, featuring


15 total variations. The theme and each variation are in the key of E-flat major
except for variations nine and ten, which are in the relative minor key of C minor.
Each phrase is eight measures in length excepting variations 13 and 15.

Movement 2 – Intermezzo

Movement 2 is written in a modified binary form. See the chart below from
Teaching Music Through Performance for a specific breakdown of the form.

This chart is from Matt Shea’s unit study found online. It outlines the important
sections of the form and the musical event that occurs:

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Movement 3 – March

The third movement is written in modified ternary form. See the chart below from
Teaching Music Through Performance for a specific breakdown of the form.

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This chart is from Matt Shea’s unit study found online. It outlines the important
sections of the form and the musical event that occurs:

Harmony

“The harmonic language is not complex. Of special interest to the conductors and
theorists is the second half of the development in the third movement (m. 97),
where C is prolonged through a progression featuring a rising chromatic line. The
progression is C major, D-flat major7, F-sharpº7 (all over the bass note C), and C
major.”

- Teaching Music Through Performance, Volume 1

Timbre

“In many ways, the timbres in this work are consistent with the writing of British
music for band in the early twentieth century. Flutes are primarily written in
unison, even in the upper register. There is a lot of cornet and trumpet in the
scoring, and these instruments constitute a soprano brass voice in four or five parts.
Tuba and euphonium are frequently doubled to form a bass line, but euphonium
has many places where it is the primary tenor baritone/euphonium line. This is
taken from the British brass band tradition, where the baritone/euphonium timbre
is potentially as important a melodic voice as cornet. Holst’s innovation shows in

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the variety of timbres he uses. There is great contrast in every movement to
provide opportunities for solos. Holst also writes some instances of de facto
woodwind quintet, brass ensemble, and chamber music writing.”

- Teaching Music Through Performance, Volume 1

Melody
A single theme dominates each movement of the Suite. Each instrument performs
the melody at various times. Major, minor, and modal melodies are used
throughout the Suite and may for the basis for a unit differentiating the kinds of
scales utilized. Melodic dictation and tonal recognition exercises may also be
considered.

Themes from each of the movements are represented in the following chart.

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Rhythm & Meter

The pulse is consistently either duple or triple throughout each movement. The
beat is steady and the meter remains constant within each movement. Rhythms are
straight forward, no hemiola rhythms are present in the Suite. The meters explored
are 3/4, cut time, and 2/4. Syncopation, especially in the second movement, is
prevalent. Students can learn to conduct in different meters through this piece.

Stylistic Considerations

“The first movement is a great study in contrasting styles, since each presentation
of the theme allows considerable opportunity to demonstrate a musical style. The
tempo should not be too slow; a range of quarter note equals 96-108 shows both
the expressive qualities of the composition and the intent behind the tempo
marking of Allegro moderato.

Measure Style
1-22 Legatissimo showing control of leaps and low pitches
23-56 Light articulation in the staccato, with emphasis on preserving
the clarinet of the theme.
57-96 Visualize this section as chamber music, with clarity of solo
lines, good tone and vibrato, and a Renaissance-like emphasis
on equality of voices in the counterpoint.
97-131 Control of upper voices through the crescendo and tonal control
of any voices in the upper register is most important. The
Maestoso marking at mm. 114 is more of an indication of
fullness and connection than of tempo.

The second movement has two basic styles: a light, detached style similar to
a bowed staccato, and a gentle legato. The main stylistic consideration throughout
the movement is the attention to the last note of phrases in the accompaniment.
Care should be taken to ensure the endings are not abrupt.
In the last four measures, the accompaniment must be performed both softer
and lighter in articulation as the line ascends to the last C2 in clarinet.
The third movement should be performed with slight detachment or life,
with emphasis on tone control. Because many groups will find it easy to play
beyond their ability to control volume, encourage the brass to rehearse no louder
than a forte volume.

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The trio (mm. 41-88) is a broadly written legato. Groups can show maturity
of musical expression both by performing eight-measure phrases and by the
addition of subtle crescendos and decrescendos throughout the phrase. Since
phrases in the trio are mostly in four-measure segments, consider conducting in
four, with each beat one measure long. This will encourage increased attention to
long phrases and legato.”

- Teaching Music Through Performance, Volume 1

Compositional Considerations

All of the main themes heard throughout First Suite in E Flat are based on the
initial chaconne theme. The theme is inverted, transposed and written in retrograde
throughout the three movements.

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- Diagrams taken from Meaghan O’Connor’s First Suite in E Flat unit guide.

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Pedagogy
Ensemble Objectives
Connected to Colorado State Standards – Music

Skill Objectives

Students will be able to:


- Perform their part accurately alone, in sections, and in the large group. (CO
1.1, 1.3, 1.4 Expression)
- Sing and play in the key of concert E-flat major, A-flat major, and C major.
- Play in the key of C minor.
- Play in F Dorian mode.
- Demonstrate stylistically appropriate phrasing on their instrument. (CO 1.1)
- Demonstrate stylistically appropriate articulation on their instrument. (CO
1.1)
- Perform dotted eighth sixteenth note rhythms in a variety of combinations.
(CO 1.1)
- Use proper breath support across the range of their instrument. (CO 1.1)
- Improvise their own melody using building blocks from Holst’s thematic
material. (CO 2.3 Creation)

Knowledge Objectives

Students will be able to:


- Define and explain terms used in the Suite. (CO 3.1 Theory)
- Map the form of pieces of music which use similar forms to the Suite. (CO
3.1 Theory)
- Identify compositional strategies composers use to create music. (CO 3.3
Theory)
- Explain background information about the piece and composer.

Affective Objectives

Students will be able to:


- Reflect on their growth as a musician at various points in the unit. (CO 3.3
Aesthetic Valuation)
- Experience aesthetically pleasing musical performances as a performer and
as a listener.

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- Collaborate with peers to create a community of learning.
- Identify personal interests connected to the material presented in the unit.
- Develop a plan to pursue interests connected to the materials presented.
- Evaluate musical performances of the Suite using proper musical
vocabulary. (CO 4.3 Aesthetic Valuation)

Concepts & Teaching Strategies

Concept: Tonality and pitch in the key of concert E-flat (substitute exercises for A-
flat and C major)

Procedure:
- Warm-up the group in E-flat major to encourage tonal connections between
the warm-up and the repertoire work.
- Foundations for a Superior Performance includes numerous scale and mini-
scale exercises in the key of E-flat.
- Consider having students sing in the key of E-flat by echoing tonal patterns.
- Echo melodic patterns in the key of E-flat.
- Foundations and Bach and Before for Band include chorales in the key of E-
flat. Some suggestions for teaching chorales:
o Have all students play all four parts of the chorale
o Have students sing each line of the chorale
o Have students sing each line of the chorale while teacher plays
accompaniment or bass line
o Have students divide and play soprano and bass lines, listening for
vertical alignment and intonation
o Have students divide and play all four parts, listening for horizontal
alignment and intonation
o Have students sing the chorale in multiple parts as they become more
advanced tonally

Assessment:
- Informal: Are students able to:
o Sing and play with a quality tone?
o Sing accurate pitches on one part?
o Since accurate pitches when others are singing a different part?
o Perform scales in E-flat major with accurate pitches?
o Accurately echo melodic patterns in E-flat?

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Concept: Phrasing

Procedure:
- Write out chaconne theme for each instrument, or teach theme aurally
through whole-part-whole process.
- Have students play the theme together.
- Ask students to sing the theme together, making sure to tonicize E-flat major
first.
- Ask students to sing different shapes with dynamics depending on how you
show conducting gestures.
o Lead climaxes in dynamics at different points in the phrase.
- Ask students to think-pair-share which kinds of phrasing they like best, or
generate their own ideas to try with the class.
- Have students lead these phrasing ideas by conducting the class, or having
the teacher conduct them.
- If students are not exaggerating dynamics enough, ask them to go too far and
then bring the dynamics back 10%.
- Decide as a group which phrasing matches the music well. Consider
listening to recordings of professional groups if needed.
- Find places in the chaconne where this melody is and mark in the phrasing
students decided on.
- Play through chaconne movement focusing on bringing out this phrasing
each time the theme occurs.

Assessment:
- Informal:
o Are students able to play with accurate phrasing in a group?
o Are students able to play with accurate phrasing when they have the
chaconne theme in their music?

Concept: Melody and Composition


- Write out the theme from each of the three movements for each instrument,
or teach themes aurally through whole-part-whole process.
- Have students play the themes together.
- Ask students to sing the themes together, making sure to tonicize E-flat
major first.
- Find places in each movement where the melody is present and ask students
to mark which instruments have the melody.
- Play through chaconne movement focusing on bringing out the melodies
each time they occur.

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- Identify the motive for each of the themes in the Suite.
- Break students into small groups to come up with their own improvised
ideas using these motives.
- Consider having students play different parts of their music as
accompaniment to the person playing their motivic theme.
- Share out ideas with class by performing and describing.

Assessment:
- Informal:
o Are students able to perform each of the melodies?
o Are students able to identify when they have the melody in the Suite?
o Are students able to identify when others have the melody?
- Formal:
o Assign a playing test where all students perform each of the melodies
with accurate articulation and style. This will reinforce stylistic
elements and consistency between players and sections.

Concept: Form

Procedure:
- After becoming familiar with the entire piece, help students understand the
form of the work.
- Map out each section using the charts provided in this unit study to show
each section and who has the melody in each one.
- Ask students to identify the sections including the introductions, codas, and
label the melodic sections A, A prime, etc.
- Listen to a recording of the piece while following along with the form chart
to help students see patterns.
- Identify an overall form type for each movement.

Assessment:
- Informal:
o Are students able to identify different sections of the form by name?
o Are students able to explain what each section name means?
- Formal:
o Ask students to take a piece of music with a simple form, listen to it,
and identify where there are different sections by mapping out the
form.
Concept: Dynamics

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Procedure:
- Ask students to play stronger and softer than necessary to exaggerate
dynamics.
- Ask them to back off 10% from the exaggerated dynamics.
- Pass different dynamics around the room from section to section, each
section’s job is to come in at the same dynamic as the section before them
and to release at the same dynamic.
- Make sure dynamic practice is working on in the warm-up material, asking
students to play different articulations, rhythms, and styles at varying
dynamic levels.

Assessment:
- Informal:
o Are the students changing their dynamics as they are playing?
o Are students able to match the dynamic passed around the room from
other sections?
o Are students able to play accurate dynamics in their repertoire?

Concept: Style

Procedure:
- Incorporate styles from each movement into the daily warm-ups by having
students practice different articulation styles and rhythms.
- Agree as a group on the style of each movement. Consider using recordings
to help with this. Describe the style in detail – perhaps using descriptive
language, pictures, etc.
- Utilize air exercises with wind players to reinforce marcato rhythms.
o Have students echo rhythms with air patterns.

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o Have students draw a visual image of their articulation and note
shape.
o For consistency, have students decide on exactly what a marcato
accent will sound like – the front, sustain, and decay all need to be
agreed upon.
- Practice echoing articulation patterns across the group.
- Use syllable exercises to achieve different articulations – ta, da, and doo are
some syllables that might be considered.
- Use air exercises to demonstrate legato sections.
- Put each air exercise back into context at a relevant section of the piece.

Assessment:
- Informal:
o Are students able to connect their air patterns to the articulation on
their instrument?
o Are students able to visualize articulations in a similar way to one
another?
o Are students able to manipulate their articulations to match those
around them?
o Are students able to put their articulations back into the context of a
section of the piece?

Instrument Considerations

Instrument-specific considerations are separated by movement in this section.


Performance objectives can stem from some of the challenges presented here.

1. Chaconne

Flute – Scalar technical patterns at letter B; subdividing entrance into the fifth bar
after letter B; very exposed solo after letter C with challenging rhythms against
oboe contrasting line; intonation at letter F, esp. around high Bb across section;
intonation on final chord of piece – high Bb across section.

Oboe – Scalar technical patterns at letter B; timing of entrance four bars after B;
very exposed solo after letter C with challenging rhythms against flute contrasting
line.

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Clarinet – Very independent writing between six different clarinet parts – bass
clarinet through Eb clarinet; wide range from two before A through ten after B;
scalar technical patterns at B; solo Bb clarinet part – need strong player to cover
this and large enough section to accommodate the additional part.

Bass Clarinet – Eighth note passage before letter C.

Bassoon – If only one bassoon, they should play the 2nd part as indicated by the
arranger unless there is a bass clarinet; octave writing before letter A; scalar
technical patterns at letter B; eighth note passage before letter C.

Alto Sax – Scalar technical patterns at letter B; exposed but simple solo after letter
C, challenging to balance and keep in time with the flute/oboe duet; last note
intonation on high C across section.

Tenor Sax – Scalar technical patterns at letter B.

Bari Sax – Chaconne theme in rhythmic ‘bops’ at letter B, challenging rhythm and
to produce quality tone.

Cornet/Trumpet – 4 independent parts, must have at least four players to cover


divisi in 1st cornet part, ideally five or more to cover 2nd trumpet part in octaves
with 1st trumpet; octave intonation in 1st/2nd trumpet parts throughout movement;
suspensions in 2nd cornet part need to be brought out of the texture and resolved
completely; octave intonation in 1st cornet divisi parts throughout movement; 1st
cornet intonation with flutes on high C four after letter F and on last note of
movement.

French Horn – Minimum of two horn players needed; very exposed lyrical solo at
letter C.

Trombone – Minimum of two trombone players needed – one 1st and one
switching between parts on 2nd and 3rd; chaconne theme in rhythmic ‘bops’ at letter
B, challenging rhythm; eighth note line nine bars after B – technique; 1st trombone
range up to high Ab.

Euphonium – Challenging range from C below staff through F above staff;


exposed solos throughout; chaconne theme in rhythmic ‘bops’ at letter B,
challenging rhythm; eighth note line nine bars after B – technique; chaconne theme
inverted at letter D; phrasing and staggered breathing throughout long lines.

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Tuba – Challenging opening chaconne theme, very exposed; chaconne theme in
rhythmic ‘bops’ at letter B, challenging rhythm; eighth note line nine bars after B –
technique and breathing; phrasing and staggered breathing throughout long lines.

Percussion – Timpani, side drum, bass drum, crash cymbal needed – four players
minimum required; buzz rolls in snare and rolls on bass drum for extended periods;
timpani rolls for extended periods; matching rhythms at letter B with low brass
line.

2. Intermezzo

Flute – Challenging dotted eighth sixteenth note rhythms; technique six bars before
B and six bars before the end is extremely challenging; very exposed flute solo
nine bars after C requiring expressive playing and mastery of upper register
through high Ab; piccolo solo at end of movement.

Oboe – Challenging dotted eighth sixteenth note rhythms; exposed solo at 11 bars
after letter D.

Clarinet – Challenging dotted eighth sixteenth note rhythms; technique six bars
before B, after F, and six bars before the end is extremely challenging; eighth note
passes at D are technically challenging.

Bass Clarinet – Composite rhythm between bassoon, euphonium, and bass clarinet
at letters A and F; sixteenth note technical run before letter B with syncopated
entrance; challenging dotted eighth sixteenth note rhythms; small solo after letter
C.

Bassoon – Composite rhythm between bassoon, euphonium, and bass clarinet at


letters A and F; small solo after letter C; challenging dotted eighth sixteenth note
rhythms.

Alto Sax – Sixteenth note runs and challenging entrances four before letter B;
dotted eighth sixteenth note rhythms.

Tenor Sax – Sixteenth note runs and challenging entrances four before letter B;
dotted eighth sixteenth note rhythms; exposed solo at letter F.

Bari Sax – Dotted eighth sixteenth note rhythms; exposed solo at letter F.

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Cornet/Trumpet – Exposed solos throughout with dotted eighth sixteenth note
rhythms – range up to high A.

French Horn – 4-part chorale writing at letter D; dotted eighth sixteenth note
rhythms

Trombone – High notes on off beats – partial work.

Euphonium – Composite rhythm between bassoon, euphonium, and bass clarinet;


exposed solo at letter D and letter F.

Tuba – Counting rests.

Percussion – Timpani, triangle, tambourine, suspended cymbal; counting


accurately; control of quick tambourine rhythms.

3. March

Flute – Triplet technique and articulation from letter D to meno mosso; triplet
technique in last few bars; marcato bell tone style.

Oboe – Triplet technique in last few bars.

Clarinet – Triplet technique and articulation from letter D to meno mosso; triplet
technique in last few bars; marcato bell tone style.

Bass Clarinet – Triplet technique in last few bars; marcato bell tone style.

Bassoon – Triplet technique in last few bars; marcato bell tone style.

Alto Sax – Triplet technique in last few bars; marcato bell tone style.

Tenor Sax – Triplet technique in last few bars; marcato bell tone style.

Bari Sax – Ostinato bass line.

Cornet/Trumpet – Pianissimo controlled playing at letter C; triplet technique and


articulation from letter D to meno mosso; stylistic marcato seven bars before the
end; marcato bell tone style.

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French Horn – Marcato bell tone style.

Trombone – Marcato bell tone style.

Euphonium – Solo throughout movement; marcato bell tone style.

Tuba – Ostinato bass line.

Percussion – Timpani, crash cymbal, side drum, bass drum, triangle; matching
ensemble rhythms and style.

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Glossary
Fill in definitions for each term as we discuss them in class.

Chaconne _____________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________

Dorian mode _____________________________________________________________


_____________________________________________________________

Intermezzo _____________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________

March _____________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________

Pedal point _____________________________________________________________


_____________________________________________________________

Suite _____________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________

Thematic transformation_____________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________

Movement 1
Allegro moderato ________________________________
Pesante ________________________________
Brillante ________________________________
Ritardando al fine ________________________________
Crescendo poco a poco ________________________________
Staccato ________________________________
Legato ________________________________
Diminuendo ________________________________
Maestoso ________________________________
Solo ________________________________
Soli ________________________________
A2 ________________________________

Movement 2
Vivace ________________________________
L’istesso tempo ________________________________
Morendo ________________________________
Dolce ________________________________
Con sordino ________________________________

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Senza sordino ________________________________
Simile ________________________________
Ripeino ________________________________
Cantabile ________________________________
Tutti ________________________________
Senza ritardando ________________________________

Movement 3
Mino mosso ________________________________
Piu mosso ________________________________
Con larghezza ________________________________
Tempo di Marcia ________________________________
Ad lib ________________________________
Unison ________________________________

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