for french horn and orchestra (or piano reduction)
Co-commissioned by Gail Williams, Daniel Grabois (University of Wisconsin-Madison), Gregory Miller (University of Maryland School of Music), Seth Orgel (Louisiana State University), Erich Peterson with the Grand Rapids Youth Symphony, Alexander Shuhan (gift from his father, George Shuhan) and Michelle Stebleton (Florida State University College of Music and Sigma Alpha Iota-Beta Alpha Chapter).
Premiered on May 17, 2012 by Gail Williams; Barry Tuckwell conducting.
Notes from the composer:
I grew up in the Chicago area. I still remember the day when my parents took me to my first Chicago Symphony concert. I was blown away, and my love for music was born. Little did I know that Gail Williams was on that stage that particular afternoon, and that I would be writing a horn concerto for her to premiere some 30 years later!
Gail is a fabulous musician. I have been attending many concerts in the Chicago area over the past few years, and each one I have attended that features her has re-affirmed that fact. It was after one of these such concerts that I struck up a conversation with her, which surprisingly led to the discussion of the possibility of writing her a new horn concerto! After picking my jaw up off the floor, we she mentioned that the horn conference in May of 2012 was a good possibility. Then came the task of getting the project funded. And this is another tribute to Gail…
I contacted many of her former students, all of whom now hold prestigious posts themselves, as well as many other french hornists, who, of course, know of Gail’s reputation. It is a testament to Gail that Daniel Grabois, Greg Miller, Seth Orgel, Erich Peterson, Alex Shuhan and Michelle Stebleton all signed on so enthusiastically to this project. It is equally exciting that all will have presented regional premieres of this new work.
About the music:
Two things are represented in the first movement:
1) Gail grew up on a farm, and in conversation with her, I was struck by what her life was like as a young girl, and the strength she carries, both as a horn player, and personally. The opening fanfare material is a reflection of that character.
2) I was struck by a video I once saw of a “murmuration of starlings” (cover photo). These birds are incredible, in their ability to fly in such close proximity at high speeds, making instantaneous turns, all the while never running into one another. This is represented in the fast oscillating notes of the Allegro molto section. The title suggests what might happen if the opening fanfare were played right near a flock of starlings, sending them into action.
The second movement is pensive, characterized by an ever-reaching motif that gradually reaches higher and higher throughout. The third movement, like most, provides for a virtuosic finish, that allows the soloist to show off their stuff. References are made to earlier material throughout the movement.
I am deeply indebted to all of the individuals for their faith in me to write a new substantial work for the french horn. Being a (former) brass player myself, I had already written major works for all other instruments of the brass family, and with the completion of this work, the collection is complete.