Duels and Dances (2011)
for solo oboe and chamber orchestra
Commissioned by the Minnesota Commissioning Club
Dedicated to and premiered by Alex Klein, oboe, and The “President’s Own” United States Marine Band, Major Jason K Fettig, conductor.
Chamber orchestra version written for and premiered by the St. Barths Festival Orchestra, Alex Klein, oboe
NOTES from the composer:
The inspiration for Duels and Dances came, strangely enough, while attending a church service in my hometown of Lake Forest, IL. During the prelude (a baroque piece), I was struck by how interesting the music can be, even if only one or two voices are being used. This thought process led to the imagery of a soloist and ensemble “fighting” one another (admittedly this is not entirely original), which then in turn led to the concept of duels. The concerto is therefore largely built around “fight sequences”, where both soloist and ensemble participate in, or comment upon, music that suggests action of a aggressive nature. All music requires, or thrives on, contrast, of course, and that is where the dances come in.
Alex Klein – for whom the concerto was written – is a musician of incomparable musicality, and I wanted to highlight this innate ability he possesses. The melodic material in his part is often accompanied by rhythmic counterpoint with a dance quality. Though not immediately related to the music of Prokofiev or Bernstein, I have always been struck by how their music is so dance-like, and therefore so human.
Duels and Dances was commissioned by the wonderful Minnesota Commissioning Club, and I am deeply indebted to them for their continued support of my music. Along with the club, the piece is dedicated to Alex Klein, and to The “President’s Own” United States Marine Band, all of whom are musicians of the highest degree, and for whom it is the ultimate pleasure to create music. Lastly, it should noted that the piece is a through-composed one-movement concerto, lasting roughly 13 minutes.
It uses 5 different oboes (at Alex’s request) – in performance order: Bass oboe, Oboe d’amore, English horn, Oboe and Musette. There is also a version for the more common instruments of the oboe family: English horn and oboe.
James M. Stephenson – January, 2011