GARRITAN INTERACTIVE
PRINCIPLES OF ORCHESTRATION
by Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov



Chapter III
HARMONY


Part 4 - Harmony in the Brass

Lesson Notes: In this lesson we discuss harmony in the brass instruments. Following the discussion on harmony in the wood-wind and stringed instruments, similar concepts will be discussed as they relate to brass instruments.



Harmony in the brass.

Here, as in the wood-wind, part writing should be of the close order with no empty spaces in the intervals.

Professor Belkin Comments: The reason, however, is different. Blend is not a great problem with brass instruments. But widely spaced brass harmony produces a curious effect: Perhaps because the colors are so rich and full, the gaps in the chords seem exaggerated.

Four-part writing.


It is evident that the quartet of horns presents every facility for four-part harmony, perfectly balanced in tone, without doubling the bass in octaves:



Note. In the diagrams of the present section the actual sounds of horns and trumpets are given, as in a piano score, for the sake of simplicity.

Professor Belkin Comments: The only qualifications to this observation are:
1) The bass should not move too quickly; the horn is rather slow to speak in its low register. The tuba can also furnish an excellent bass to the horns, by itself, being of a similarly round character but more agile. In loud dynamics, the tuba should be marked one level lower than the horns.

2) The overall register should be mainly that of the tenor and alto voices. Horns are NOT suitable for passages of high or low harmony.
When it is found necessary to double the bass in octaves, the too resonant trombone and tuba are seldom used, the duplication being effected by the bassoon, as explained further on. The quartet of trombones and tuba is not often employed in close four-part harmony; the third trombone and. the tuba usually form the bass in octaves, and the three upper parts are generally allotted to the two remaining trombones reinforced by a trumpet or two horns in unison, so as to obtain a perfect balance of tone:



Professor Belkin Comments: Trombones are more transparent in close harmony in the low register than horns.

I have often adopted the following combination of brass instruments, and consider it eminently satisfactory: 2 horns and tuba to form the bass in octaves, the three other parts given to the trombones:



(beautiful full resonance)



In the higher registers, four-part harmony, of which the two upper parts are given to the trumpets, may be completed by two trombones or four horns in pairs:



Professor Belkin Comments: Trombones and trumpets can be used together with virtually no problems of blend. Horns work well with either, but give a sound somewhat softer and rounder.

When 3 trumpets are available the fourth part should be allotted to one trombone, or two horns in unison:




Professor Belkin Comments: RK’s principle of using 2 horns to balance one trumpet or trombone is only needed in the louder dynamics.


Enclosure of parts may be used in single chords:



or in progression:





Three-part writing.

The best combination is trombones, horns, or trumpets in three's. If the instruments are mixed the number of horns should be doubled:


Professor Belkin Comments: Again, this applies mainly to loud passages, since the horns at their loudest are still weaker than trumpets and trombones at their maximum level.


Writing in several parts.


When the whole group is used the number of horns should be doubled:


Professor Belkin Comments: This is true if the writing is really contrapuntal, aiming at EQUAL balance. If the horn parts are less important, one horns per part will suffice.

In seven, six, or five-part harmony certain instruments must be omitted:





Discords of the seventh or second are preferably entrusted to instruments of different tone colour:






Professor Belkin Comments: This favours euphony and a full, consonant, sound. If a more acid or strained sound is desired, using, say, 2 trumpets for a strong dissonance is very effective.


When such chords are written for an orchestra which only includes two trumpets, it is impossible for the horns to proceed in pairs. In such cases the following arrangement may obtain, the horns being marked one degree louder than the other instruments, to secure balance of tone:





The same method should be followed whenever the use of horns in pairs fails to produce satisfactory tone.When chords of widely-divided harmony are distributed through-out several harmonic registers, the register occupied by the horns need not be doubled; the arrangement of the chord will resemble that of a chorale written for double or triple choir. For example:




Professor Belkin Comments:
Here even single horns are enough to avoid the sensation of a GAP in the texture, especially since they are “fat” instruments, with very round tone.


Duplication in the brass.


Duplication in the brass group is most frequently effected by placing a chord for horns side by side with the same chord written for trumpets or trombones. The soft round quality of the horns intensifies the tone, and moderates the penetrating timbre of the trumpets and trombones:






Professor Belkin Comments: It is also possible to give the horns the same harmony but NOT the same exact spacing.


Similar juxtaposition of trumpets and trombones:




is not so common, as this unites the two most powerful agents in the group.

In handling an orchestra the brass is frequently employed to sustain notes in two or three octaves; this sphere of activity must not be ignored. The tenuto is generally given to two trumpets, or to two or four horns, in the octave, (in double octaves). The octave is sometimes formed by trumpets and horns acting together:


The trombone with its ponderous tone rarely takes part in such combinations. Sustained notes in double octaves are usually apportioned thus:



The imperfect balance arising from the duplication of the middle note is compensated for by the mixture of timbres, which lends some unity to the chord.


Examples of harmony in the brass:

a) Independent chords:
Other References:
• Snegourotchka Section 74 — 3 Trombones, 2 Horns.
• Snegourotchka Section 140 — 3 Trombones, 2 Horns. Chords in different groups alternately (cf. Ex. 244).
• Snegourotchka Section 171 — Full brass; further on 3 Trombones (cf.Ex.97).
• Snegourotchka Section 255 - 4 Horns (stopped).

No. 129. Snegourotchka, Section 289
- 4 Horns.

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Other References:
• Snegourotchka, Section 289 - Full brass.
• Sadko, before Section 9 - Full brass (enclosure of parts).


No. 130. Sadko, Section 175
- Mixed timbres (juxtaposition) 3 Horns + 3 Trumpets.

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Other References:
• Sadko, before Section 338 - Full brass except Tuba .


No. 131. Sadko, Section 191-193 - (full brass).

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No. 132. The Christmas Night, Before Section 180 - Full muted brass.

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Other References:
• The Christmas Night, Section 181 - 4 Horns + 3 Trombones + Tuba .
• The Tsar's Bride, Section 178 - Strings and brass alternately (cf. Ex.242).

No. 133. Tsar Saltan, Section 102, 7th bar - 2 Trumpets, 2 Trombones + 4 Horns (juxtapoisition).

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Other References:
• Tsar Saltan, Section 230 - Full brass, thickly scored (cf. Table of chords No.11 at the end of Vol. II, Ex. 12).
• Servilia, Section 154 — Various brass instruments.
• Legend of Kitesh, Section 130 — 3 Trumpets, Trombone and Tuba.


No. 134. Legend of Kitesh, Section 199, Short chords (juxtaposition).

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No. 135. The Golden Cockerel, Section 115 - Horns, Trombones (enclosure).

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b) Harmonic basis:

No. 136. Snegourotchka, Section 79, 6th bar
- 4 horns

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Other References:
• Snegourotchka, Section 231 - 3 Trombones, soft & sweet (cf. Ex. 8).
• Antar, Section 64—65 - 4 horns; later 3 trombones (cf. Ex. 32)
* Sheherazade, la movement, Sections A, E, H , K , M — Harmonic bases of different power and timbre (cf. Ex. 192—195).

No. 137. Servilia 93
Full brass.

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No. 138. Tsar Saltan, Section 127
- 4 muted Horns + 3 Trombones and Tuba con sord. pp

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Other References:
• Tsar Saltan, Before Section 147 — Full brass ff (the 2 Oboes and Eng. horn are of no particular importance).
* Pan Voyevoda, Section 136, 9th bar — 4 Horns, then Trombones, 2 Horns.

No. 139. Legend of Kitesh, Section 158 — Trumpets, Trombones

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No. 140. Legend of Kitesh, Section 248 — 3 Trombones

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Other References:
• Legend of Kitesh, Before Section 362 — Full Brass.


Next Lesson:
Lesson 16 - HARMONY - Combined Groups - Wind & Brass