Henry Wolking
2 alto, 6 tenor, 2 bass trombones

Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Publisher: Cherry Classics Music
Date of Publication: 2020

Score and parts.

Primary Genre: Trombone Ensembles - 9+ trombones (choir)

Forests by Henry Wolking is a large, impressive, and serious major composition for trombone choir. It is written for ten trombones divided into two choirs, with ATTTB in each choir. The choirs at times act antiphonally, and also overlap and join into various combinations. Wolking uses overlapping rhythmic and melodic ideas among the ten parts to create large vertical tapestries. The rhythmic ideas are combined by use of hocket, pyramids, or imitation. Duple and triple rhythms are overlayed and contrasted with each other. This creates a series of large sections combined in a mosaic or additive form, with each section containing a different density, volume, emotion and coloristic effect. Some sections return, others do not. The composer takes full advantage of the various color combinations both in instrumentation and special effects. For example, the piece opens with two alto trombones playing a three-note figure in hocket before the rest of the group enters. There are muted sections (Harmon and straight mutes), aleatoric sections with double tongue effect and free motivic cells, muted alto trombones, and experiments in wide vibrato. There are moments that are labelled by the composer with visual images: a quiet moment with various parts imitating specific bird calls in a meadow, the wind, and colors of the forest. The alto trombone parts are difficult, and though given frequent rest, are often playing between c2 and e2 in loud dynamics. All ten parts are soloistic requiring independence and demand excellent and confident rhythm and dynamic control. Forests is a grand and impressive experiment for the trombone choir medium, and not for the faint of heart, but it could prove to be one of the most remarkable modern works for trombone choir. I think those that attempt it will be rewarded.

Reviewer: Timothy Howe
Review Published June 24, 2023