The evolution of wind music for the modern-day wind band is a product of historical development, as the instruments evolved and compositions became more sophisticated. This chapter explores some significant examples written for winds before 1750, and provides a historical perspective on the development of wind music that laid the foundation for the modern wind band.

1551 – The Danserye – Tielman Susato

Tielman Susato was a music publisher, composer, and instrumentalist who spent much of his life in the southern Netherlands. Musicologists believe that he was most likely born between 1510-1515 and lived until around 1570. Susato’s publications primarily consisted of anthologies featuring works by Flemish composers, such as Thomas Crecquillon, Orlande de Lassus, and Josquin Des Prez. In addition to his work as a publisher, Susato was also a composer who wrote both secular and sacred music. [1]

The Danserye is a set of sixty-one dances arranged in four parts, most likely for amateurs, and published in 1551. The original name for the work was

Het derde musyck boexken.[2]There is no specific instrumentation on the score, so it was probably meant for whatever consorts or instruments were available.

Patrick Dunnigan, Director of Bands at Florida State University, arranged nine of the dances for concert band. The FSU symphonic band premiered selections from “The Danserye” on April 17, 2002. The nine movements include:

    1. La Morisque
    2. Bergerette
    3. Les quatre Branles
    4. Fagot
    5. Den hoboecken dans
    6. Rondo and Salterelle
    7. Ronde & Aliud
    8. Basse dans: Mon desir
    9. Pavane: La Battaile[3]

Fred J. Allen also wrote a setting of The Danserye for wind band.

1597 – Sonata pian’ e forte – Giovanni Gabrieli

Italian composer Giovanni Gabrieli was most likely born between 1554-1557 and died in August 1612. He studied composition with his uncle, Andrea Gabrieli, as well as Orlande de Lassus in Munich at the court of Duke Albrecht V. He served as principal organist at both Saint Mark’s Basilica and the Scuola Grande di San Rocco. As a composer his oeuvre includes motets, madrigals, organ pieces, music for instrumental ensembles, and sacred and secular vocal music.[4]

Gabrieli’s first collection of works, Sacrae symphoniae, was published in 1597. It contained sixty-three compositions, including sixteen instrumental pieces, that were most likely written for and performed at Saint Mark’s and San Rocco. Sonata pian’ e forte is one of the excerpts from the collection. During the late sixteenth century, “sonata” referred to a piece of music written for instruments.

Gabrieli was one of the first composers to assign specific instrumentation to his works, and Sonata pian’ e forte is scored for two choirs of instruments including alto trombone, tenor trombone, bass trombone, cornett, and viola. This piece is also one of the first compositions that included dynamic markings.[5] Other works for winds by Gabrieli include Canzon primi toniCanzon septimi toni, and Canzon duodecimi toni.

1612 – Terpsichore – Michael Praetorius

Michael Praetorius (1571–1621) was a German organist, theorist, and composer. His treatise, the three-volume Syntagma musicum, discusses sacred music, musical instruments, as well as music theory and notation. In addition, Praetorius wrote over 1000 works based on Protestant hymns and the Latin liturgy of the Lutheran church.[6]

Praetorius’ only secular work, Terpsichore, is a collection of 312 dances published in 1612. One of the nine Greek Muses, Terpsichore, was the Muse of dancing. Praetorius arranged these French dances as examples of four, five, and six-part writing.[7] Similarly to The Danserye, specific instrumentation is not listed on the score, so it was probably meant for whatever types of consorts or instruments were available.

In 1981, Bob Margolis published Terpsichore: After Praetorious. The four movements include:

    1. Bransles gay & double de Poictu
    2. La Robine – Spagnoletta – Ballet des Amazones – Ballet – Volte
    3. Gavotte – La Bourrée
    4. Gaillarde – Resprinses – Gaillarde – Volte

1749 – Music for the Royal Fireworks – George Frideric Handel

George Frideric Handel (1685-1759) was born in Germany and settled in London in 1712, where he was accepted as a naturalized British citizen in 1727. As a child, his family did not approve of his music studies, but after his father’s death in 1697, he was able to study in Halle, Hamburg, and Italy. He wrote forty-two operas, twenty-seven cantatas, concerto grossi, harpsichord suites, chamber music, and large orchestral works.[8]

Handel’s Music for Royal Fireworks was written in 1749 for a festival ordered by King George II. The festival was meant to celebrate the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle that ended the war of the Austrian succession. The performance called for forty trumpets, twenty horns, sixteen oboes, sixteen bassoons, eight pairs of kettledrums, twelve side drums, fifes, flutes, and serpents.[9] Prior to Music for Royal Fireworks, Handel also composed Water Music Suite for winds in 1715.

Modern editions have been arranged for wind band by Hershy Kay (1950), Frank Erickson (1985), Robert Longfield (1997), and Douglas Wagner (2014).

  1. Forney, Kristine. "Susato, Tylman." Grove Music Online. 2001; Accessed December 29, 2022. https://www-oxfordmusiconline-com.lib-e2.lib.ttu.edu/grovemusic/view/10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.001.0001/omo-9781561592630-e-0000027146.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Nikk Pilato, “Selections from ‘the Danserye,’” Wind Repertory Project, accessed December 29, 2022, https://www.windrep.org/Selections_from_%22The_Danserye%22.
  4. Bryant, David. "Gabrieli, Giovanni." Grove Music Online. 2001; Accessed December 29, 2022. https://www-oxfordmusiconline-com.lib-e2.lib.ttu.edu/grovemusic/view/10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.001.0001/omo-9781561592630-e-0000040693.
  5. Frederick Fennell, Time and the Winds: A Short History of the Use of Wind Instruments in the Orchestra, Band and the Wind Ensemble (Huntersville, NC: Northland Music Publishers, 2007). 7-8.
  6. Walter Blankenburg and Clytus Gottwald. "Praetorius [Schultheiss, Schultze], Michael." Grove Music Online. 2001; Accessed 29 Dec. 2022. https://www-oxfordmusiconline-com.lib-e2.lib.ttu.edu/grovemusic/view/10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.001.0001/omo-9781561592630-e-0000022253.
  7. Ibid.
  8. Anthony Hicks, "Handel [Händel, Hendel], George Frideric." Grove Music Online. 2001; Accessed December 29, 2022. https://www-oxfordmusiconline-com.lib-e2.lib.ttu.edu/grovemusic/view/10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.001.0001/omo-9781561592630-e-0000040060.
  9. Frederick Fennell, Time and the Winds. 11.


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