Katherine Hoover – Summer Night (1984)

Katherine Hoover is an established composer based in New York. First published in 1972, she has produced numerous works in a variety of genres with a particular emphasis on works featuring the flute. Commercial recordings of her music are widely available.

“Summer Night” was originally a showpiece for flute, horn, and string orchestra. However, the composer has transcribed the string parts in an idiomatic arrangement for piano, and the resulting trio version is the subject of this review. The piece takes the form of an “Adagio and Allegro,” but a remarkable feature is the seamless transition between the two sections. The undulations of the melodic lines, especially the opening horn call, evoke a mood that is both tranquil and unsettled: a dichotomy that makes for powerfully expressive music.

The piece is lugubrious yet lyrical. Her music has been described as having “a romantic, often pictorial atonal style.” But rather than atonal, this piece would better be described as having constantly shifting tonal centers that transition by traversing the circle of fifths. In the hands of a less skilled composer, such an approach might quickly lose focus and direction, but the timing and choice of tonal centers seem perfectly balanced to allow the listener to follow the logic and keep pace.

The horn part requires a considerable degree of technical dexterity, as one might expect for a showpiece originally with orchestra. The part lies mostly in the comfortable range between written G3 and G5. There are occasional forays lower, but nothing lower than D3. The climactic moment of the Allegro ascends suddenly to Db6. The flute and the horn often alternate, which provides plenty of opportunities for the horn to shine by itself.

The sheet music for the trio version is published by Theodore Presser and available at quite a reasonable price.


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