On the Discussion of Ewald's Quintets in 1994 ITG Journal Article

At our Advanced Brass Ensemble Literature class at the University of Iowa last week, we listened to one of Ewald's quintets, the number musical opinions on how the quintets should be played, and were introduced to an ITG article by Andre M. Smith from 1994 on the brass quintet music of Ewald. This author spent 43 years on researching this composer's music to get all the facts correct! Below are my thoughts after reading the article:

Upon reading Andre M. Smith’s ITG article on Victor Ewald’s four brass quintets, I did not know much else about the composer other than knowing that he played a number of instruments, and wrote three brass quintets. I did not know that Ewald in fact, wrote four brass quintet pieces with the fourth actually being his first brass quintet composition that was confused with originally being a string quartet. It was a rather dense article to read, so I read a few chunks at a time over the period of two days.

I suppose that if one is to research something they have much interest in, he or she must have a firm work-ethic, and constantly think critically when reviewing documents or relevant texts to the subject. Smith’s 43 years of research did seem to pay off, and is a prime example of what “proper research” looks like, as well as serves as an example of true patience. I did not realize how complex and difficult research can be, especially at a time when he did not have the internet; this lack of the internet makes the 43-year research time more plausible. I am in a music editing class made up of graduate students, and what we are learning so far is how critically we all must be when working on our editing projects. We must have a clear goal or purpose for our project, and must have the sufficient sources needed for our work to be credible.

I thought that in this article, it was humorous how Smith’s colleagues in Russia did exactly the opposite of what he instructed not to do since his research was work was on its way to being published. I am curious to know if there was a lawsuit that happened between Smith’s American edition of Ewald’s first two quintets and the Russian edition. There must be some friction there, right? It seems like downright plagiarism to me. Further, I did not understand why Froydis Wekre exchanged her collection of Ewald’s music for Gershwin’s music. I thought copying music was an ability musicians had since the latter half of the 15th century. Regardless of this thought, she along with the American Brass Quintet and Empire Brass Quintet all contributed in reviving, and reinvigorating interest in performing Victor Ewald’s brass quintets in the 20th century.

On the note of rotary vs. piston valves in this article for playing quintet music, I would use what I am most comfortable with, and what sounds best rather than being pedantic about such a trivial issue. Of course there may be a slight difference in sound and valve action, however if one is a good enough player, he or she can play well enough already to sound great on one or the other. Further Forsyth’s thoughts on trombones not having a true legato is another case of one being pedantic, and perhaps ill-informed. Smith stated that at the time of Ewald and his contemporaries, much of their music and majority of ensembles at this time were made up of amateurs who were enthusiasts of just playing rather rather than simultaneously being a scholar and performer. Isn’t it better to just have fun when playing music rather than to dwell on miniscule details that may make minor differences?