Review of the 18th Conference of IGEB in Echternach / Luxeumburg

Raoul F. Camus, New York/USA

            The eighteenth biennial conference of the International Society for the Promotion and Research of Wind Music (IGEB) took place in the beautiful medieval city of Echternach, Luxembourg, July 10-15, 2008. Forty-one scholars, many accompanied by their husbands or wives, came from Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, the Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Israel, Italy, Luxembourg, Macao, Poland, Sweden, and the United States to present papers on their new research on wind bands and their music. Befitting this tiny country nestled between France, Belgium, and Germany, the official language is French, the common language is German, and almost everyone speaks English as well as the Luxembourgish dialect. The papers at the conference included English, French, and German speakers. This was not really an insurmountable problem, as there were extensive abstracts in translation, and the use of PowerPoint presentations by many helped those who could read the language but not really absorb it that quickly when spoken. The papers discussed below were in English unless otherwise stated.

            It was encouraging to see so many women doing research in wind music. Considering that not too many years ago a band convention was basically all male, the experience of seeing ten women presenting quality research on a variety of important wind topics was most refreshing and bodes well for the future.

            The conference opened with a general meeting of the members in attendance, followed by a concert given by the Municipal Band of Echternach, followed in turn by a reception featuring the local Moselle wine. This, in capsule form, is IGEB: serious business followed by music, followed by social activities and conviviality!

            The formal research sessions were grouped according to themes, and the first, appropriately, dealt with Luxembourg, our host country. Three papers in French began the conference. Françoise Molitor (LU), head of the music department of the National Library of Luxembourg, discussed the works for wind band held at the National Library of Luxembourg. Alain Nitschke (LU) discussed the Luxembourg composer Laurent Menager and his works for wind band. Our host, Damien Sagrillo (LU), then discussed works for wind band by other Luxembourg composers, including two prominent women, Helen Buchholtz and Lou Kopster.

            One of IGEB’s major goals is the interchange of information between scholars. It is hoped, at IGEB meetings, that attendees, unlike some other professional organizations, do not simply come to the session where they are to give their paper and then leave, but stay for the whole conference and interact with people from other lands and other cultures who share a passion for wind music. Many of the attendees at this conference have built lasting friendships at previous meetings. Social events are therefore very important to build conviviality. The morning and afternoon half-hour coffee and one-hour lunch breaks added immeasurably to our enjoyment of seeing friends and colleagues.

            So, following the coffee break, Susan Forscher‑Weiss (MD, USA) and Ichiro Fujinaga (CA, USA) gave a fine Power-Point presentation on evidence of kettledrums in late Medieval Italy: “When You See Trumpets, Can Drums be Far Behind?” They discussed the generally accepted date of 1457 as the earliest reference to kettledrums in Europe, and then presented evidence of an earlier reference in late fourteenth-century Siena, pushing the date back more than eighty years. Francis Pieters (BE) then discussed the wind band music at the court and in the army of Louis XIV of France. Mikolaj Rykowski (PL), in his discussion of Moravian Harmoniemusik, proved that there is a great deal more of this eight-part classical octet form than the works of Mozart, Krommer, and Druschetzy, and that the roots of the genre are in Moravia.

            Robert Grechesky (IN, USA) was to have discussed Kurt Weill and his music for winds, a very interesting topic, but was unfortunately hospitalized the day before he was to leave for Echternach. We hope that he will present his paper at a future IGEB meeting. Jon Mitchell (MA, USA) gave a very interesting paper on the influential Boston music critic Philip Hale and his commentaries on wind ensemble works programmed by the Boston Symphony Orchestra between 1901 and 1933. Kari Laitinen (FI) closed this session with his research on military music education in Finland, 1918 ‑ 1995. To those of us in music education, it is interesting to learn that wind instrument instruction in Finland was available only in the military until the 1970s. This certainly gives one a new perspective on music education in other countries.

            Following the important coffee break, Simone Waigel (DE) talked about the teaching of wind instruments in nineteenth-century Bavaria (in German). The paper by Cynthia Johnston Turner (NY, USA), “Leaving the Safe Harbor: Musical Explorations Beyond the Known,” described the Costa Rican tours of her Cornell Wind Ensemble, and her commissioning new works from Eddie Mora Bermudez, a native composer. The excitement generated by these tours in Cornell, NY (Cornell University) and the cities in Costa Rica where the band gave concerts was very heart-warming to hear. Her campaign to gather musical instruments to donate to deserving students in Costa Rica otherwise unable to afford them should be made general knowledge and emulated. In his delightful PowerPoint presentation “Why not Tuba? Reflections on Factors Involved in the Process of Choosing Wind Instruments among Students in Israeli Youth Bands,” Joseph Hartmann (IL) discussed the future of wind music in Israel. As if this immigrant-based society didn’t have enough problems with the present political conflict, it seems that ethnic influences, influences from abroad, socio-economic diversity, and differences between the sexes, not to mention economical considerations all play a part in preventing some young people from taking an interest in wind music.

            The day ended with a delightful and virtuosic concert by the Luxembourg Tuba Consort and dinner for all in a local hotel restaurant. In addition to fine food, we were delighted to become acquainted with the famous Luxembourg Moselle wine.

            The second full day began with a history of the National Concert Band of Canada (2001‑8) by Jeremy S. Brown (Alberta, CA). He discussed the philosophy, repertoire, soloists and conductors of Canada’s new twenty‑first century youth band. Carol Shansky (NJ, USA) followed with the history of the Franklin and Waldwick (NJ) Bands, two community (non-professional) bands with interesting similarities and differences, both successful.

            IGEB is very proud to have instituted the Thelen Prize for the best dissertation on wind music accepted at a university anywhere in the world. Three Americans have so far won this prestigious award, but the winner for 2008 is Günther Kleidosty (AT), whose dissertation “Symphonische Blasmusik in Österreich, Geschichte, Strukturen, Tendenzen” (“Symphonic wind music n Austria: history, structures, trends”) was chosen by an international committee from seventeen submissions. The dissertation will be published as part of IGEB’s Alta Musica series. His paper, in German, gave brief excerpts and an overview of his dissertation. Maciej Jochymczyk (PL) then gave a talk on the very rich tradition of wind music at the Pauline Fathers Monastery of Jasna Góra in Czestochowa, South Poland.

            Looking at the 1939 editions of the Deutsche Militär‑Musiker‑Zeitung (German Military Musician Newspaper), Marion Fürst (DE) found that symphonic band music was very highly regarded and promoted in Nazi Germany. Her paper, in German, examined the need for new music, the occasions where such music was performed, and the composers commissioned to write new wind works. Ryan Nelson (IL, USA) followed with “The Reality of Programming in the United States: What the American Universities and Colleges are Actually Playing.” In a ten-year study of American college and university band programs, Nelson not surprisingly found that what band directors are actually programming is quite different from what some of these same directors have determined are “important” or “classic” works for winds. It reminds one of Mark Twain’s famous comment that a classic “is a book which people praise and don’t read.” Charles Conrad (IN, USA) followed with an examination of some of the band music composed for the 1909 Abraham Lincoln Centennial.

            Following lunch, IGEB’s president, Bernhard Habla (AT), gave an historical review (in German) of the many original works composed for band in a four-movement form similar to the classical symphony. While earlier works, such as those composed for events connected with the French Revolution, were mainly performed locally in the composer’s sphere of influence, Habla feels that the last several decades have seen symphonies by such composers as Fauchet, Hidas, de Meij, Van der Roost, Salnikov and Eder de Lastra entering the international scene, thanks in part to IGEB and WASBE. Manfred Heidler (DE) asked (in German) whether regional traditions are a stimulus or a stumbling block for German wind music in an international environment. In his view, German wind ensembles are principally perceived as representing “tradition in sound,” and as such are carelessly equated with folk music extending from “oom-pah” music to the imitation of symphonic works. As an example of internationalization, David Hebert (MA, USA) spoke of the increasing importance of Japan in the field of wind music. With one of the largest markets for sheet music and recordings, one of the largest wind instrument manufacturers, the largest band competition, and professional bands that rival professional orchestras, works by native composers are still relatively unknown outside Japan. Using analytical and phenomenological perspectives, Hebert describes his experiences conducting two Japanese amateur wind bands performing Asuka, by Tetsunosuke Kushida, and Fu-Mon by Hiroshi Hoshina. From the relatively unknown to the well-known, but with a new perspective: Marshall Forrester (TN, USA) followed with a discussion of the role of wind instruments and wind band idioms in the first movement of Mahler’s Third Symphony.

            The day ended with another fine social occasion intended to build friendships and promote morale, an excursion to the Moselle River, and dinner in a local winery complete with wine-tasting.

            Ann‑Marie Nilsson (SE) began the next day’s sessions (in German) with a history of the Adelsnäs band from the southern part of Sweden and how it evolved from the private band of Baron Adelswärd to a fully complemented industrial band between 1830 and 1875. In “Rediscovering Romania’s Wind Music,” Evan Feldman (NC, USA) described the rich musical tradition of folk ensembles as well as the rediscovery of a major work by George Enescu, Romania’s greatest composer. Written in 1906 for the thirtieth anniversary of Carol II, Imn Jubiliar (Jubilant Hymn) is a large-scale work for military band, men’s choir and cannons. Paul Niemisto (MN, USA) followed with a fascinating discussion of 18th-century Russian horn bands and a modern-day revival in St. Petersburg by a group calling itself the Russian Horn Capella.

            Following the refreshing coffee break, Achim Hofer (DE) analyzed (in German) eight wind works by Georg Christoph Wagenseil (1715-77), showing their importance in the pre-history of classical Harmoniemusik. James Massol (DE) then compared (in English) Johann Christian Bach’s Eb bassoon concerto (C.82) to Mozart’s Bb concerto (K.191) identifying similarities of form, style, thematic and motivic resemblances, and technical aspects of bassoon scoring. Adam Schwalje (Macao) followed with a discussion of six bassoon sonatas by François Devienne, raising the question of the importance of the composer’s intentions according to Randall Dipert’s hierarchy. The day’s sessions ended with Joseph Manfredo (IL, USA)  discussing the historical and socio‑economic factors that influenced the Selmer Company to move from Paris to New York City to Elkhart, Indiana.

            The afternoon was devoted to a walking tour of Echternach, the oldest town in Luxembourg, founded by St. Willibrord in 698. The Benedictine Abbey Museum contains, among other treasures, the famous “Golden Book,” the only manuscript that rivals in date (985) and importance the famous Book of Kells manuscript in Dublin. The tour ended in the village square where two local bands were about to begin concerts. Sitting outdoors with friends in the old square in very pleasant weather and listening to concerts while having supper was a most delightful experience. But the best was yet to come: a concert by the Canadian Brass.

            Our host, Damien Sagrillo, was able especially for this conference to engage the Canadian Brass for a concert in Echternach while they were on their European tour. The beautiful new 700-seat concert hall was filled to capacity, and this famous brass quintet gave a marvelous concert. In response to loud applause and a standing ovation, the group played two encores, but the audience wouldn’t let them leave. Following several minutes of the famous European rhythmical clapping, they gave a magnificent performance of La Virgen de la Macareña with unique and virtuosic ornamentation by the solo trumpeter. The applause was deafening, and lasted for many minutes. What a memorable evening!

            The next day’s sessions were held on the campus of the Faculty of Humanities of the University of Luxembourg. Following greetings from University Dean Michel Margne, Anatoliy Gabrov (BG) discussed the life of the famous Bulgarian opera composer and bandmaster of the Sofia Guard Regiment, Georgi Atanasov (1882-1931). In “Gems of Parallelism,” Christian Zembower (TN, USA) compared Holst’s Hammersmith and Respighi’s Huntingtower, both major original works for band. Karl Vigl (IT) followed with an examination (in German) of Vinzenz Goller’s attempts to revitalize the liturgical processional marches popular in South Tyrol (formerly a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, now a part of Italy).

            Following that important coffee break intended to allow further questions, refreshment, and social contact, Scott A. Weiss (KS, USA) spoke about the United States Army Band’s efforts to standardize the Star-Spangled Banner, which, by the early 1960s, had at least 171 different published arrangements. Congressional attempts in 1962 and 1967 to adopt a single version promoted by the US Army Band and its Herald Trumpets were defeated, and so there is to date no official version other than the Department of Defense version for military bands of America’s national anthem. Seemingly a little out of place at a band conference, Mitchell Lutch (IA, USA) then outlined the history of the Seventh Army Symphony Orchestra. Considering the United States Army Band’s role in its creation, however, it was not out of place at all. As musical ambassadors, this military orchestra did much to prove that America was serious about European cultural traditions and heritage. This was followed by a very friendly communal lunch in a Chinese restaurant (Chinese restaurants seem to be ubiquitous!).

            IGEB boasts at least two husband and wife teams of musicologists. The Anzenbergers have been mainstays at many previous meetings, and Friedrich Anzenberger (AT) is IGEB’s general secretary. He gave (in German) a paper on the famous “Hoch- und Deutschmeister” Regiment bandmaster Johann Müller (1856‑1924). His wife, Elisabetb Anzenberger‑Ramminger (AT) then gave a paper (also in German) on the composer of the famous march named after that regiment, Dominik Ertl (1857-1911). Even though he composed a number of other works for military band, Ertl’s reputation rests mainly on that one march. 

            Following the afternoon coffee break, Marco Antonio Toledo Nascimento (BR), a Brazilian currently living in France, reviewed (in French) the training methods used by amateur bands in France and how they can be applied to Brazil. The final papers at this conference were given by our second husband and wife team of musicologists. While Eva Viĉarová (CZ) has attended previous meetings, we were delighted to welcome her husband Jan Viĉar (CZ) and hope they will both be back many times in the future. Unusual for scholars in the Czech Republic, both are working on American subjects. Jan spoke about brass music and the brass instruments of the American Moravians. Considering that these Moravians came from what is now the Czech Republic, it is most appropriate they he study this movement, as very few Americans studying the American Moravians can read the historical records in Czech. His wife Eva, an internationally recognized musicologist in her own right, discussed the influence of Austrian military music on American band music, a subject that might surprise many American band scholars. She has applied for Fulbright grants to study this matter further, but has been unsuccessful, mainly due, in my opinion, to Czech musicologists refusing to accept that such influence exists, and a generally negative attitude towards bands as a proper subject for scholarly research.

            After returning to Echternach and dinner in the village square, the evening ended with an Abschlusskonzert/Concert de Clôture or closing concert consisting of an audiovisual musical portrait of Echternach. Typical of all the concerts attended, there was a reception following at which Moselle wine was very much in evidence..

            For those who wished to stay another day, our gracious hosts Damien and Ria Sagrillo arranged a sight-seeing tour of Luxembourg City. One can not thank them sufficiently for all they did to make the conference an outstanding success. My wife and I look forward very much to the next IGEB conference, wherever it may be!