The Universal Judgment
A Symphonic Poem by Camille De Nardis,
Transcribed for the Goldman Band by Antonio Cafarella

Page updated August 10, 2008

This very popular tone poem is often performed by high school and college bands.  It is one of my favorite works. Its theme of triumph after struggle has great appeal and its many dramatics make the work very interesting. The high school band I was in performed it in 1972 and a recording is below. It is published by Carl Fischer, Inc. (c) 1934.  Oddly, I recently discovered that it is listed as "permanently out of print" but I am told not to take that too seriously.  There are three performances in mp3 files below that you can download.

The work has 481 measures and is in the key of E-flat and is mostly in 2/4 time except that 4/4 is used for most of the majestic sections.  The opening section is marked, Allegro con fuoco (fast with fire, energy, spirit). The opening tempo marking on the score is 120 beats per minute and the indicated tempo drops to the 60s at several places in the work.  The time of performance is listed as 8 minutes and 50 seconds which is clearly an error.  The time of performance using the marked tempos is somewhat over 13 minutes. 

(1) Here is a recording (low quality mono) of The Universal Judgment ( alternate common misspelling for searches, The Universal Judgement ) theuniversaljudgment.mp3 (12 Mbytes, 13:11) as performed in 1972 by the high school band in which I played the clarinet.  It was recorded by a portable cassette recorder in the audience in the auditorium which was better known as the cave because of its bad acoustics.  I have done about all that can be done to enhance the recording to at least be reasonable.  It is really not that bad if one listens to the music rather than the sound. 

(2) In searching the Internet I found the following mp3 file of an excellent performance by the Army Ground Forces Band, Lieutenant Colonel James D. Holt, Jr., Commander and principal conductor at which is where you should download it from -- click on the heading on the top right of the page, Recordings, and then select Soundscapes .  I am posting a copy of it here in case that program disappears.  The file name is as I found it including the misspelling.  UniversalJudgement.mp3 (10.0 Mbytes,10:52).  This performance is at top tempo.  My preference is for a more sedate tempo as I used in my recording below.

(3) The following is a version that I did myself during July, 2008 on my aging orchestral synthesizer (1992 vintage),   the_universal_judgment.mp3 (13:24). It was a lot of fun to do and is how I would conduct the work were I a conductor.  This work taxes my synthesized orchestra to the limit and I had to make a few adjustments in orchestration and in some of the notes to achieve a good overall sound.  In some cases this meant adding some parts in octaves and some modifications to the tympani parts -- bass clarinet substitution for light tympani roll.  I think the performance turned out well and captures the fire and spirit even though the orchestra is simpler than the original.  I usually like dramatics in the tempo but this work is best done with static tempos except for the places where dynamics are marked.  I decided to stick to the tempos as marked on the score as those really do feel right.  The result of this is that the trumpet fanfare in the middle is performed slower than is usually heard but once you become acclimated to the tempo it really feels right and is as the composer intended (M.M. = 64).  The closing section is marked pui mosso and I jump the tempo from 120 to 134 beats per minute which is definitely noticeable without over doing it.  My copy of the condensed score had two errors on the last page (measures 451, 452 and 459, 460) -- a D# and D natural should have been F# and F natural in two places which caused a very dissonant sound on some big chords.

Here is a little background information.  Camille De Nardis (1857 - 1951 -- this is the spelling of his name on the score -- other spellings I have found are Camillo de Nardis and Camill de Nardis, sometimes the last name appears as deNardis) was director of the Conservatory in Naples, Italy.  This composition (the only one known in present existence) won first prize in a national band context in Naples in 1878 and also in a competition in Turin, Italy, in 1880.  In 1934 Antonio Cafarella prepared an arrangement of the original score for concert band -- specifically for the Goldman Band.  This arrangement has been popular ever since.

The Universal Judgment is based on a religious concept of a journey of purification consisting of hardships with glimpses of hope and joy for those who are awaiting the universal judgment before receiving final blessedness.   The music follows this progression with alternating sections of hardships (heavy brass parts), hope (high woodwinds frequently representing angels), and joy (also woodwinds and including lyrical brass parts), and with a triumphant conclusion representing final blessedness. See  for more information. There is a giant fresco (16th century) painted by Ferraů Faenzone (a work commissioned by Cardinal Angelo Cesi) depicting the Universal Judgment on the rear wall of the Cathedral (11th century) of Todi, Italy.  See the picture below.

The following is quoted from : "The Universal Judgment :  This massive fresco that covers the rear wall of the chapel is awesome –and a lot of fun.  In it, Jesus sits, enthroned, presiding over the judgment of humanity.  Flanked by the twelve apostles, with the saints and angels in attendance, there is a division into the blessed (on the left side –and therefore to his right) and the damned (on the right).  Notice that things are much more ordered and structured in heaven above and among the righteous on the left; a swirling chaotic disorder characterizes the situation among the damned, with Satan in the center (with one of the damned in his mouth, and one in another orifice).  (The arrangement is not unrelated to that of Dante’s Inferno.)  Things are actually much more interesting over there, however:  the fantasies of the torments of Hell range from the horrifying (Nancy entertained the idea that maybe in view of what we were looking at we should be careful…maybe even go to confession!) to the wildly kinky (ŕ la Hieronymus Bosch). "


The above picture is taken from this site:  Quoted text: "The Cathedral (11th century) of Todi, Italy.
The counter-facade is occupied by a giant fresco depicting the Universal Judgment (16th century) by Ferraů Faenzone, a work commissioned by Cardinal Angelo Cesi, in which the influence, if nowhere near the genius, of Michaelangelo is easily discerned. 

The following is quoted directly from this site (typos included):
"The climax of the Program will be "Universal Judgment," a symphonic poem by Camillo De Nardis, long time director of the Conservatory in Naples. This composition won first prize in a national band contest at Naples in 1878, and in a competition at Turin, Italy, in 1880. Arrangement was specially prepared from the original score for the Goldman Band by Antonio Cafarella. The work itself "is extended in form and made up of a number of well-contrasted' melodious movements. The first of these is an Allegro con fuoco, in a well-developed fugal form; this is followed by a Moderato assai, descriptive of the heavnly hosts; and in turn by a recurrence of the first movement in altered form eading into an inspired Maestoso and Choral. A spirited Allegro brings the composition to a close." "

The following is quoted directly from this site (typos included):
"Based on the original Italian score, this piece vividly depicts 19th century Italian opera. The instrumentation is heavy on the brass. Featured are the trumpets in an array of fanfares representing echoing choirs of the heavenly hosts. The piece is also rhythmically active, drawing specific atteniton to the percussion section. Noteworthy about the piece are sudden fluctuations in dynamics and sections of fugue that unify the woodwinds and the brass. This arrangement does justice to the composer's original intention. This symphonic poem won first prize at a national band competition in Naples in 1878 and was first published in 1934 ."  This particular review concerning opera seems a bit odd given what the work is actually based on.  Perhaps the writer has confused the grand style and theme of this work with operatic music by Wagner (who was not Italian).  It is true that the concepts of this work would fit a dramatic operatic theme of that period.

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