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A fanfare is a short instrumental flourish, usually of trumpets, either alone or with other brass instruments and often with percussion. (An introductory drum roll is almost a cliché). Historically it has been used as an introduction to the entrance of, or an announcement by royalty or another dignitary and dates back to before musical notation. Fanfares were particularly popular during the Renaissance and Baroque eras and have been a part of coronations for centuries.

During the 20th century pieces of music written in a declamatory style have been entitled fanfares, but do not meet the instrumental criteria – or brevity - of the true fanfare. They are often introductions to larger works and are far more than a “flourish”. The opening movement of Joaquin Rodrigo ‘s “Concierto Madrigal” is a “fanfare” for guitar and orchestra.

  • William Walton wrote true fanfares into his “Façade” music and incidental music to “Hamlet”. “Hamlet” also received a short and to-the-point fanfare by Dmitri Shostakovich.
  • Benjamin Britten wrote “Fanfare for St. Edmunsbury” for three trumpets.
  • Igor Stravinsky’s “Fanfare for a New Theatre” is for two trumpets.
  • During both world wars the English composer and conductor, Eugene Goossens commissioned fanfares from various composers – British during WWI, American during WWII – to be played as introductions to his concerts. The only one of these that has not disappeared is Aaron Copland’s popular “Fanfare for the Common Man”.

In general language a fanfare has come to mean any great display or "hype" associated with an announcement.

Reference:“The Grove Concise Dictionary of Music”