Ritchie’s Brass Quintet is dedicated to his father, John Ritchie, and was composed in 1992 for the Canterbury Quintet. Unfortunately this ensemble folded before the work could be performed, and consequently the composer had not heard the work prior to the recording by the NZ Chamber Brass. Ritchie notes that, at the time of composing the work, he was fascinated by the work of several Minimalist composers, this influence being most apparent in the first two movements.
The starting point for this piece was some dramatic cloud formations I experienced while in Morrinsville, near Hamilton. It was a brilliant sunny day, with occasional huge and interestingly shaped clouds floating past. They provided inspiration for the opening texture for my piece Clouds, which is flowing and slowly unfolding in character.
Clouds can assume many different shapes and characters and this is reflected in my piece. There are stormy ideas with strong rhythms, jagged ideas built from small motifs, mysterious ideas that suggest darker clouds, bright climaxes that suggest the sun bursting through.
The solo trombone is like a small aeroplane, weaving its way through the clouds and enjoying a rather turbulent journey. Its part is soloistic but integrated into the band texture and often underpinned by the percussion, who have an important role in sustaining the momentum of the piece. Near the end the soloist has a brief cadenza before the music rises to a rumbling climax. This passage finally disintegrates, as the clouds disperse.
The Florentine Camerata was a group of musicians and literati of the late sixteenth century that gathered to discuss the changing musical practices of the day, and saw the development of Baroque monodic vocal style and the first opera, Euridice. The Camerata would engage in fierce debates about dissonance and counterpoint, and helped usher in a new era that strived to capture the emotion of the tdxt in the music. During this period, music that included brass instruments was widely performed. Impressions of the Florentine Camerata, brass music, and Baroque ornamentation and dissonance were the inspiration for this piece: a madrigal, a recitative, and a quirky tango.