Author Topic: 5 Bagatelles - an orchestration project  (Read 49 times)

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Patrick O'Keefe

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5 Bagatelles - an orchestration project
« on: November 09, 2017, 04:10:07 PM »
This probably should be posted in the "Beginners" section of the forum, but it's here for the time being.

A short time ago Michel suggested to somebody that his ensemble writing seemed to be more strings plus solos rather than choirs of winds and brass.  I'm sure that's a terrible paraphrase but I can't find the posting at the moment.  In any case, I thought he might as well have been addressing the comment to me.  I think I do all right letting an instrument's unique timbre show but I have trouble with a brass choir or a wind choir sounding cohesive.  I really have trouble with a strings, winds, and brass tutti.  So I'm going to practice some orchestration. 

This thread is likely to be long and rambling.  And I'm certainly going to ask for lots of suggestions.

This project may go nowhere, but I'm thinking of orchestrating a set of 5 bagatelles I wrote for piano over the past 3 years.  Actually, 5 were written 3 years ago but the last 2 got moved into a sonata so I've recently written 2 more.  Those two are essentially done now (but there will be tweaks for a few days).  The first 3 have been performed (in a slightly earlier form) so I know they are playable.  No pianist has yet seen the last two.  But even if they fail a pianist's audit they will still serve as a basis for orchestration.

Here's a link to 5 sets of PDF and audio files of the piano version (plus audio files of performances of the 1st three in slightly earlier versions):
I'll add the orchestra versions once I get going on the project.

I think numbers 1, 3, and 4 are amenable to orchestration.  Numbers 2 (built on arpeggiated chords) and 5 (a two voice invention) may lose too much in translation.  So I guess my first question is: Should I try this, or should I find something else to orchestrate?

I should mention that in spite of my age (71) I'm a student; suggestions from my teacher/tutor will take slight precedence over suggestions from this forum.  (Slight.  He's pretty used to my ignoring or modifying his suggestions.)



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Re: 5 Bagatelles - an orchestration project
« Reply #1 on: November 09, 2017, 07:19:04 PM »
First off /// What a treat!  ;D

I loved #4 .............................

If you orchestrate what instrumentation would you choose?

Quite a challenge ..... to capture the nuance of the piano versions.


Jerry Engelbach

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Re: 5 Bagatelles - an orchestration project
« Reply #2 on: November 10, 2017, 02:36:44 AM »
I too favor number 4.
But as a body of work they're all engaging. Each one is distinctive, while they all share a playful, spontaneous, improvisational quality. I like your use of percussive effects. All five together make a nice part of a concert program.
You're in convivial company. At 73 I'm also learning by orchestrating what were originally piano pieces, but that were neither as modern nor as pianistic as yours.
Finale 25

Patrick O'Keefe

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Re: 5 Bagatelles - an orchestration project
« Reply #3 on: November 10, 2017, 09:08:38 AM »
While I don't have a favorite, #4 is special; it essentially wrote itself.  The others I struggled with a bit.  #4 just kind of flowed out.  I tweaked the tempo a bit, played with the last bar's left hand, and that's about it.

I have mixed feelings about the instrumentation to use in the orchestration.  If this is to be just an educational exercise I have infinite resources at my disposal but if I want performable pieces I need to scale back.  There is only one ensemble in my environs - Seattle WA, USA - that is likely to consider performing any orchestral piece I write: the Octava Chamber Orchestra.  They are usually limited to the classical period orchestra: strings, pairs of winds, a pair of trumpets, a pair of horns, and tympani.  No trombones; no tuba.  Sometimes percussion, but not usually.  Sometimes harp, but not usually.   I will probably aim towards that small ensemble.

Obviously the lack of trombones and tuba limits my getting practice using brass choirs, but there are other avenues.   #1 started life in two forms: for piano and for brass quintet.  I can try that sort of thing for other pieces, too.

In any case, I envision a different type of orchestration for each piece since they are quite different in character.

I ran this idea by my teacher.  He's in favor and thinks I should start with #2 which I think is going to be the trickiest of the lot.  It's going to take more of a re-envisioning of the piece rather than just orchestrating.  He suggested I look at Dallapiccola's orchestration of his Quaderno Musicale di Annalibera.  Sheesh.  What have I gotten myself into?
« Last Edit: November 10, 2017, 03:24:02 PM by Patrick O'Keefe »