I first discovered Octet of Henry Woollett when I worked on a school project that entailed examining a tangentially related score and set parts from an archive and grading them.
In order to fulfill the assignment, I made an appointment to appraise a piece from the Elise Hall Collection at New England Conservatory of Music, the Ballade Carnavalesque composed by Charles Martin Loeffler, against its published version. While examining the archives list, I discovered a second piece near the end of the Elise Hall Collection list that contained an interesting and unusual instrumentation resembling a chamber orchestra complement. That piece is what you see here today.
I initially engraved the first movement and then half of the second movement before taking a long break to focus on my own compositions. The COVID-19 pandemic, however, brought the unexpected gift of time I needed to engrave the rest of the second movement and the two remaining movements—in less than a week! From there, I also gave the movements their titles, derived from their tempo markings.
Historically, Henry Woollett’s Octet represents one of the few chamber pieces in the Elise Hall Collection. Woollett composed the piece in 1911, and Elise Hall, oboist George Longy, and other members of the Longy Club premiered it on January 2nd, 1912. Reviews generally praised the piece – especially the second movement, which focuses entirely on the string quintet with solos from the alto saxophone. Unfortunately, after that initial performance, the piece was apparently never performed again. The copyist score and parts were added to the Elise Hall Collection items that were placed under the care of the New England Conservatory of Music Archives and eventually donated to the school.
This publication of Octet represents a 108-year gap finally bridged to give this piece a well-deserved second chance.
- Ian Wiese
performance edition edited by Ian Wiese, ASCAP
Instrumentation:Mixed Chamber Ensemble
Year Composed: 1911
*No tax or shipping on digital-only items