Veils and Variations

for Horn and Orchestra

William Kraft

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Publisher: Theodore Presser Company
Print Status: Rental

Quick Overview

The work is in two movements, each of which, in different ways, draws on musical ideas that the composer has explored in other recent pieces. ?Veils,? the title of the first movement, refers to layers of sonorities that combine to form a constantly changing succession of aural textures. This process, which Mr. Kraft has developed in other compositions of the past several years, might me compared to placing a series of colored transparencies beside each other in a layered sequence, the various overlappings producing and array of composite colors. The ?meshing? of these sonorities yields dense ?clouds? of sound, as Mr. Kraft describes them, though the individual sonorities themselves may be quite transparent.

This veiling procedure is evident from the opening moments of the piece. Alto flute and piano provide the first ?veil? of sound, but their combined sonority is soon overlayed with others formed by different combinations of instruments; at length, the entire orchestra is brought into play as part of one sonic layer or another. Only then does the solo horn enter the discourse, sometimes blending into the ever-changing orchestral fabric, but more often standing out from it by dint of the virtuosity of its music, which particularly demanding in its use of the instrument?s extreme high and low ranges.

The second movement follows the first without pause, the transition occurring in the course of an unaccompanied passage for the horn. Entitled ?Variations,? the movement grew out of a work for unaccompanied horn called Evening Voluntaries, which the composer wrote in 1980. The title of this piece is that of a poem, a gentle evocation of twilight in the countryside, by Wordsworth. Mr. Kraft says he associated the term ?voluntaries? with distant horn calls, and the theme, taken from Evening Voluntaries, that opens the ?Variations? portion of the present work, has a pastoral, far-off character. There follows a series of variations on this theme. The first is marked by contrasting dynamic levels and registers in the horn part: the second augments these demands with rapid figuration: the third requires rapid, delicate playing, frequently involving triple-tonguing, to realize its wispy textures. A coda in slower tempo offers music more clearly related to the original theme. Unlike the classical theme-and-variations format, these several sections are not clearly defined but flow seamlessly from one to the next.

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Additional Information

Commission Jeff von der Schmidt
Composition Date 1988
Duration 00:27:30
Orchestration Solo Hn.; 3(Picc./A.Fl.) 3(E.H.) 3(B.Cl.) 3 - 4 3 3(B.Tbn.) 1; Timp. 3Perc. Pno.(Cel.) Hp. Str.
Premiere 27th January, 1989. Jeff von der Schmidt, Horn, Berkeley Symphony Orchestra, Kent Nagano conducting.

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