Clifton Williams (1923-1976) was born in Arkansas and attended high school in Little Rock, where he became an accomplished french horn player. He studied composition at Lousiana State University and the Eastman School of Music. He taught composition for 17 years at the University of Texas at Austin before becoming chair of the composition and theory department at the University of Miami in 1966.  He held this post until his untimely death.  His first compositions were written for orchestra.  His career as a wind band composer took off in 1956 when Fanfare and Allegro, his first composition for band, won the inaugural Ostwald Award given by the American Bandmasters’ Association.  His Symphonic Suite won him the award again the following year.  He went on to write over 3 dozen works for band, many of which are considered essential repertoire.

Fanfare and Allegro proceeds through many moods.  It opens with a jubilant fanfare that gives way to a dark woodwind theme accompanied by busy ostinatos.  After an interlude of crescendoing chords, the brass introduces the allegro in a joyous fugato that again leads to plaintive woodwind melodies.  The tension builds as the rhythms tighten, tempos quicken, and tessituras are tested in every instrument. The piece ends in the midst of a thrilling accelerando.

Fanfare and Allegro will be the sole piece played by the CFW Festival Band , which will open the 3rd annual Columbia Festival of Winds on 3/6/2011.  Dr. William Berz of Rutgers University will conduct this band, which will be made up of members from each of the bands participating in the Festival.  We also played it in Columbia Wind Ensemble in 2004.

Since I won’t be conducting it this time around and don’t know exactly how Dr. Berz will like it, here are several version of Fanfare and Allegro for your listening (and hopefully practicing!) pleasure:

First, a vintage recording from 1957ish, just a year or 2 after the piece was written.  The band is made up of Chicago Symphony players and other Chicago-area pros.  Legend has it that they kept a case of beer handy at the session!  That may explain the insane fast tempos, especially at the end of the piece.  Thanks to Richard Schneider, CUWE’s longtime concert tubist, for the recording and the pictures used in most of the video:

A live performance by the FSU band:

A highly (overly?) polished studio recording:

A less polished live recording from Plymouth State University in Vermont that puts a couple extra beats in at the end:

Clifton Williams and Fanfare and Allegro at windband.org.

Clifton Williams bio at Wikipedia.

Clifton Williams on the Ostwald Award site.

Clifton Williams at the Wind Repertory Project.

Fanfare and Allegro at the Wind Repertory Project.