As with many of my works, it seems, ‘Concerto Braziliano’ was created on short notice for a special circumstance. Composing a concerto quickly is one thing, but subsequently receiving a stellar premiere performance by a performer who has to master it quickly is another. But such was the case with this trombone concerto, composed in late 2006.
In November of that year, I learned that I would be traveling to St. Barths, in the French West Indies, to perform (as a trumpeter) at a music festival to be held there the following January. When I looked at the proposed program, I noticed a slot that indicated: “to be determined”. These are dangerous words to mention to a composer!
I immediately called to see if they might consider having a new work to fill that slot, and after a little bit of back and forth, we agreed that I would compose a new concerto for my good friend, Nitzan Haroz, principal trombonist of the Philadelphia Orchestra. Further discussion and suggestions came from Brazilian conductor (and oboe soloist) Alex Klein, and the inspiration for adding a little ‘Braziliano’ to the piece began to form.
The 18-minute concerto is in one-movement form, opening with an extended lush and dramatic section before eventually subsiding into bossa-nova style rhythms. Further fantastical and virtuosic displays follow, including three-part harmonic lines, inspired from Brazilian vocalizing, other fugal motifs and lyrical interludes. The final allegro vaults the piece to a close, with syncopated snapshots of elements heard throughout the course of the work.
Mr. Haroz gave a sensational premiere performance of the work in January, 2007, on the most beautiful island in the Caribbean, on just one rehearsal, and having only had the music in his possession for less than a month. I am forever grateful to him, and to Mr. Klein and Frances DeBroff (creator of the St. Barths Music Festival) for giving me the opportunity to create this piece.
The Wind Ensemble version came to be as a result of another great trombonist, Mark Hetzler, who spearheaded a consortium to commission the new orchestration of the piece. This consortium included Mr. Hetzler, Peter Ellefson and the universities of Wisconsin, Texas Christian, and Michigan State. The premiere of a slightly modified version was held at MSU with Ava Ordman as soloist, under the direction of John Madden. Mark Hetzler performed the wind ensemble premiere in its entirety at the Univ. Of Wisconsin in February of 2011, under the direction of Scott Teeple.
Wind Ensemble setting commissioned by consortium members:
Mark Hetzler/UW Madison, Scott Teeple, director; David Begnoche/TCU, Bobby Francis, director; Peter Ellefson; Ava Ordman/MSU, Kevin Sedatole, director.
Wind Ensemble premier with Mark Hetzler soloist and the University of Wisconsin Wind Ensemble, Scott Teeple – director, February 2011
Jim Stephenson, November 20, 2010