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Some composers garner substantial performance histories of their works that continue decades or centuries after they die. Others do not, and the reasons can be mysterious. Ernö Dohnányi (1877-1960) was a first-rate musician who composed polished and sophisticated pieces of grand scope. His ideas at times reflect innovations in music of the early twentieth century […]
Mason Bates is the latest shiny object in the firmament of American orchestral music. He recently dethroned Jennifer Higdon from her second place on the list of most performed living Americans. (John Adams rules perennially at number one.) 2017 will see the premiere of his new opera The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs. If his experience […]
Composer Jennifer Margaret Barker cut her musical teeth playing oboe in a Scots community band. She also played fiddle and keyboard, so perhaps she was a one-person band in her own right: a quadruple threat. And although she is an American citizen now, she has never strayed far from her Celtic roots. I. Sound Explosions […]
Maltese composer Joseph Vella has the horn as bookends on a long career. One of his earliest works is the 1968 Trio Concertante for horn, violin, and piano. By contrast, his next work to receive a premiere (as of this writing) will be The True Face of God for four horns, timpani, and organ, composed […]
Emily Brontë once observed that cherishing “the delusion of being married for love by girls” is a folly of a man’s declining years. If so, such folly never benefitted the music world more than the infatuation of Leoš Janáček for Kamila Stösslová. Though Stösslová was in no way a girl when they met, a gulf […]
Has the epoch of melody ended? Is story-telling passé? Creative artists of the 21st century seriously debate these questions. But one who is having none of it is the Polish composer and author Aleksandra Chmielewska. And none of her compositions demonstrates her commitment to melody more than her Trio Elegiaco for violin, horn, and piano. […]
Some historians think Bohuslav Martinů suffered from Aspergers syndrome. He was shy in conversation, had extreme stage fright, and endured significant motor clumsiness. But he was also a prolific composer, and his music is as outward facing as his personality was inward. I. The Stravinsky Connection In 1923 Martinů abandoned his life in Prague and […]
The Contemporary Hornist has a habit of harping on twin pitfalls of contemporary horn music: overuse of the high register and non-use (dare one say ignorance?) of the low register. Recent decades have heralded a number of new trios for horn, violin, and piano from established modernist composers that fall into these traps. But one […]
The Quintet in D Major by Ralph Vaughn Williams (1872–1958) is surely off-topic for a blog devoted to contemporary music. Its style owes a great deal to Johannes Brahms, and its composition date is firmly within the Romantic Period. But what stirs the interest of a contemporary hornist is the piece’s unusual performance history. After […]