This list covers the pieces with marimba that I’ve listened to, including the unaccompanied and accompanied solo compositions, as well as some ensemble/chamber and orchestral works. Regarding the unaccompanied solo pieces, unlike xylophone, marimba has been quite explored by the composers. As I wrote in the post about the xylophone pieces, many even prefer the accompanied solo xylophone works to be played on marimba instead. On the other hand, regarding the chamber and orchestral repertoire, not only is marimba a newer instrument, which joined the orchestra later, but it has a limited projection when compared to the xylophone. This is why the ensemble/orchestral repertoire is much smaller for marimba.
Unaccompanied Solo Marimba
From its introduction to the western classical music around 1910, it wasn’t until 1940 that the original compositions for marimba appeared, with the solo works prior to that being mostly transcriptions. While I will not focus on the transcriptions, but the original works, it is interesting to mention Vida Chenowith. She was among the first players to play polyphonically on the instrument, being able to perform chorales by Bach, also setting some guidance for the composers in how to write for marimba. (Chenoweth, 1964)
Clair Omar Musser – Prelude Op. 11 No. 3 and No. 7; Etude Op. 6 No. 2, No. 8, No 9 and No. 10 (probably between 1940 and 1960)
I can’t find the exact composition date. Some sources list the some of the pieces above with piano accompaniment, but the versions I’ve listened to were all unaccompanied. Musser is perhaps one of the first to compose original marimba works. Bridge (n.d.: 5) writes in his paper about marimba repertoire how Musser’s compositions are considered pedagogical, rather than serious works. However, I really enjoyed these pieces and I feel they were an interesting introduction the four-mallet technique of marimba. In fact, Musser himself developed a unique grip, which is now called after him – the Musser grip. (Peters, 1995: 114) I also found the scores to look at, and the harmony is mostly quite standard, much like the form, often the ternary aba form. Nevertheless, there were some quite exciting melodic phrases that I loved, especially in the Etude Op. 6 No. 8 – my favorite, which in a different style from his other pieces I listed. It is also nicknamed whole tone, which upon listening, you can guess why.