25005 – Trisagion
John Tavener (born 1944)
Adapted for brass band by Roger Harvey
Trisagion is an important Byzantine hymn. It means thrice holy. The music is clearly defined into sections of distinct characters. One element, heard initially at the beginning of the piece, is festive, with flourishing scales and angular arpeggios in a contrapuntal style. This alternates with a homophonic and simply harmonised plainchant of a more solemn nature. After a number of exchanges of these elements the plainchant, now played in unison, alternates with block chords, at first in a bell-like manner and then in a reiterated rhythm. Then comes a series of 12 ‘Grand and massive’ chords which are immediately repeated in reverse. A joyful coda then follows, consisting of the plainchant melody with a chiming decoration elaborating it in the upper instruments. Finally the last phrase of the chant is grandly stated.
Trisagion was written as a brass quintet for the Philip Jones Brass Ensemble but never found a regular place in the repertoire in this form. It remains difficult to programme as a concert item due the physically demanding nature of the writing. In 1987 John Tavener gave permission to Roger Harvey to adapt the work for London Brass to play as a tentet. Not only does this make performance more practical but it also gives the piece a greater range of colour in keeping with its contrasting music, a bright toned group of trumpets, horn and trombones alternating with the softer colours of flugel horns, trombones and tuba, and also gives the opportunity to separate the elements spatially on the platform, and thereby strengthening the dramatic nature of the exchanges of material. This version made for a performance at the Royal College of Music by Grimethorpe Band further extends the depth of colour and also adds percussion.
The two groups should be separated on the stage with group 1 being placed in a line at the back in the order (left to right from the audience view): soprano, solo 1, solo 2, 2/3rd cts, trb 1, trb2, bass trb, group 2 should sit in a semi-circle at the front.
Percussion: Tam-tam; small bell; side drum; temple block; xylophone