Unlike the ubiquitous brass quintet, the septet does not feature a horn and consequently can produce a more homogenous sound. This flourishes with Schumann’s choral style, exemplified in the 1849 Vier Doppelchörige Gesänge, Op. 141 (Four Double Choruses), in which harmony is prioritised over melody.

Although all of the movements have a spiritual quality, only the final song, Talismane (Talismans), has an explicitly religious text: a joyous celebration of God’s omnipotence, with every mention of His name heralded by a cascade of bell-like rising fourths through the ensemble; by contrast, man’s fallibility (“my errors bewilder me”) is represented in an intensely chromatic six-note motif, with a legato solo trombone initiating a series of imitative entries. An die Sterne (To the Stars) yearns for the “stars in the distant heavens”, demanding a delicate clarity of articulation. Ungewisses Licht (Uncertain Light) follows an intrepid traveller through the stormy wilderness, the dramatic power of the septet enhanced by antiphonal effects, before a sudden light prompts a lone trombone to ask the question “is it love, is it death?”, the rising fourth anticipating Talismane. The gentle rocking rhythms which permeate Zuversicht (Assurance) are brought out by a careful mirroring of the emphases of the optimistic German text, with the peaceful final harmonies underpinned by a lengthy tuba pedal.

Parts included:

  • Score
  • Trumpet in E-flat
  • Trumpet 1 in B-flat
  • Trumpet 2 in B-flat
  • Trombone 1
  • Trombone 2
  • Trombone 3 (Bass)
  • Tuba

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