For Bb clarinet, French Horn, and Percussion (two players)



James M. Stephenson

Quartet for Clarinet, French Horn and 2 Percussion

Written for Gail Williams, Steven Cohen, and 2 percussion, on the occasion of Gail and Steve’s retirement from Northwestern University. 
Premiered on May 15, 2022 in Gavlin Recital Hall, at Northwestern University by
Gail Williams, Steven Cohen, She-e Wu, and Benjamin Krauss

Commissioned by a consortium of clarinet and french horn players listed below.

duration: 15 minutes

Bb clarinet, French Horn, Percussion (two players)
percussion instruments needed:

wood blocks (2): low-hi
5-octave marimba
kick drum
suspended cymbals (3): large (crash), medium (ride), small (color)
wood plank (thin, high-pitched)
concert bass drum snare drum
toms (4)
crotale (G5 only) vibra-slap
small cowbell tambourine (mounted) hi-hat (closed)

Program notes – by the composer:

To say that I was honored to be asked to write for Gail and Steve’s retirement recital at Northwestern might be the understatement of my career! Both Gail and Steve have been so supportive of my work over the years – I’ve truly been a very lucky composer. Furthermore, the support for this piece received from the clarinet and horn players listed below was fantastic, amazing, mind-boggling, and so very much appreciated. It’s all a testament to the legacy that Gail and Steve have created, and to the indebtedness we all feel toward them.

The music of this four-movement trio is not programmatic. The titles were created after-the-fact, so that there might be a relationship to their careers at Northwestern. But never did I try to correlate the shape of the music to that of a long-standing career of teaching at Northwestern, or to that of a teacher-student relationship. The title does hint at a sense of “renewed” vigor at the thought of ending one chapter, and starting a new one. The pun is of course that of “Regarding Northwestern University”, or Re: NU. And the movements do start with the letters of Tire, so that when coupled with “Re”, they spell “Retire”. But I’d prefer they instead referred to what a “Treat” (I.) it would be to study with them, how they inspired everyone to “imagine” (II.) they’re personal journey of music-making, how everyone should “run” (III.) to study with both of them, and lastly, how they would always “engage” (IV.) to such a degree with their students over the many years. [And – each of these words can also be attached to “Re”, as in: Retreat, Reimagine, Rerun, Reengage.]

If one was to search for meaning, they would find it in repeated G’s, hinting at Gail’s influence on my horn-writing career. I think she’s directly supported or commissioned about eight new works from me. Or a more careful study would reveal direct quotes in the cadenzas of the 4th movement, from other works I’ve composed for Steve and Gail. The second movement uniquely has the horn and clarinet in unison most of the time, suggesting how they’ve been in this teaching career together for so long, but at the end, they do indeed go their separate ways. Lastly, knowing both of them personally, I know that they would not want a huge deal made about their departure. The humility they show and the love they have for their students always comes first, and so the piece comes to an end not with a lot of fanfare, but rather a quiet march to the finish.

A very special thanks to Northwestern percussion professor She-e Wu for her help in editing the percussion parts to my wishes, and for her performance in the premiere performance, along with percussionist Benjamin Krauss.

~ Jim Stephenson; December 10, 2021

I am so thankful to the following people for their support of this new trio:

Thomas Beal – Lynn Beck/John R. Beck – Jon Boen – James Boldin/Scot Humes/Joe W. Moore III – Tony Brackett – Carl Collins – Hazel Dean Davis – Justin Davis – Julianne Kirk Doyle/Lauren Becker/Timothy Sullivan – Victor Drescher – Eric Ginsberg – Lisa Ford – Elizabeth Freimuth –
Diana Haskell – Shandra Helman – Brandon Houghtalen – Sandra Jackson – Stephanie Key – Richard King – Alex Kovling/Joseph Gonzalez/Tygar Worosello – Caroline Lemen – Benjamin Lieser – Carol Mavrakis – Vincent Morreale – Leslie Norton – Seth Orgel – William Purvis – Jeppe Rasmussen – Hadley Reynolds – Katie Sablinsky – Sarah Schouten – Martha Sharpe – Alexander Shuhan – Samuel Sparrow – Maddy Tarantelli – Heather Test – Josh Thompson – Valerie Whitney – Lisa Wissenberg – John Bruce Yeh – Luke Zyla –
Minnesota Orchestra Horn Section: Michael Gast/Herbert Winslow/Brian Jensen/Ellen Dinwiddie Smith

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