Concerto for Horn and Orchestra

Samuel Adler

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Publisher: Theodore Presser Company
Print Status: Rental

Quick Overview

In 1997, a CD appeared with eight solo works for wind and brass instruments that I had written at various times since 1970 performed by principal players from the major symphony orchestras in this country. These pieces in form of concert etudes are all named CANTOS. William Ver Meulen, principal horn of the Houston Symphony Orchestra, recorded the work for solo horn. I was so delighted with Bill?s recording that I made sure we would meet as soon as possible. That meeting took place in the summer of 1999, and we discussed a possible commission for a horn concerto. This indeed came to pass when the Houston Symphony Orchestra commissioned me to write such a work for William Ver Meulen. I readily accepted and was very excited to write the work.

It is in three movements:

The first movement begins with a slow declamatory introduction as if the horn soloist was inviting the rest of his colleagues to have a musical dialogue with him. This conversation begins after only a few measures and is a fast and energetic one. There is constant interplay between the soloist and the orchestra with a constantly recurring rhythm of two short notes (sixteenths) followed by a longer (eighth) note. These rather agitated sections are contrasted with more lyrical melodies but in the end the forward driving rhythmic sections win out and bring the movement to a fast and furious ending led by the soloist.

The second movement is quiet and peaceful. The piccolo player as well as the English horn player of the orchestra is asked to leave the stage to have a more mystical dialogue with the soloist, who uses a call reminiscent of the shofar used in the High Holy Day services in a synagogue. The soloist begins this call with first the English horn then the piccolo answering. In between these dialogues the orchestra interrupts with outbursts which seem to welcome the calls for peace, and the movement ends softly with the English horn, the horn soloist and very soft strokes on the triangle.

Mozart wrote four wonderful horn concertos in which the last movements have very similar rondo or recurring themes. I love these works and therefore simulated a Mozart-type theme to be the recurring theme of this final movement. The difference in my concerto is that the theme is not all in one meter. While Mozart stays in 6/8 for all of his tunes, mine constantly shifts between the regular 6/8 time and the more irregular 5/8 and 7/8 rhythms. Further, instead of simply repeating the tune as it occurs in the beginning, it is developed and reshaped every time it is played. Again as in the first movement, contrasting sections of various characteristics set off one sounding of the original tune from the next. It is hoped that the exuberance and happiness I felt while writing this piece will be perceived by the listener, and the love of the solo horn and the orchestra which has been life-long for me will easily be felt by all

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Additional Information

Commission Commissioned by the Houston Symphony Orchestra for its principal hornist, William Ver Meulen
Composition Date 2002
Duration 00:20:00
Orchestration Solo Hn.; 2 2 2 2 - 2 2 0 0; Timp. Perc. Str.
Premiere February 8, 9 and 10, 2003. William Ver Meulen, solo Horn, Houston Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Hans Graf.

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