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ClassicsOnline Home » ROUSE, C.: Wolf Rounds / DAUGHERTY, M.: Ladder to the Moon / MASLANKA, D.: Trombone Concerto (University of Miami Frost Wind Ensemble)
This album from Naxos’s acclaimed Wind Band Classics series presents three highly contrasting new works. David Maslanka’s Concerto for Trombone and Wind Ensemble is a heartfelt memorial to the late Christine Nield Capote, flutist, teacher and friend of the composer and the trombonist Tim Conner. Michael
Daugherty’s Ladder to the Moon, inspired by the urban landscapes of Georgia O’Keeffe, recreates the feeling of skyscrapers and cityscapes in Manhattan of the 1930s. In Christopher Rouse’s Wolf Rounds ‘circular’ musical ideas constantly metamorphose, suggesting to the composer the wolf’s predatory rounds.
By Steve Schwartz
Wolf Rounds: Michael Daugherty (b. 1954): Ladder to the Moon • David Maslanka (b. 1943):
Concerto for Trombone and Wind Ensemble • Christopher Rouse (b. 1949): Wolf Rounds
Michael Daugherty (b. 1954): Ladder to the Moon (2006)
Ladder to the Moon for solo violin, wind octet, double bass, and percussion was commissioned by the Lincoln Center Chamber Music Society. The first performance was given by the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center with Ida Kavafian, solo violin, in New York City on 5 May 2006. The two-movement work is twenty
minutes in duration and scored for solo violin, two oboes, two B flat clarinets, two bassoons, two horns, double bass, and percussion (one player).
Ladder to the Moon is inspired by the urban landscapes of American artist Georgia O’Keeffe (1887–1968), who lived and painted in Manhattan before moving to New Mexico in 1934. From 1925–30, O’Keeffe created over twenty New York paintings of newly constructed skyscrapers, such as the Radiator Building and the Shelton Hotel. Like experimental photographers of the era, such as Alfred Stieglitz, O’Keeffe discovered a different reality in the form of skyscrapers, simultaneously realistic and abstract. Although Stieglitz (her husband at the time) claimed it was an “impossible idea” for a woman to paint New York, O’Keeffe went on to create some of her finest work during this time, motivated by her own conviction that “one can’t paint New York as it is, but rather as it is felt.” Ladder to the Moon is a musical tribute to the art of O’Keeffe, recreating the feeling of skyscrapers and cityscapes in Manhattan of the 1930s.
I. Night, New York is my musical perspective on skyscrapers as seen by O’Keeffe from an elevated height in New York at night: she often painted from her high-rise apartment on the thirtieth floor of the Shelton Hotel. Like her paintings, which featured only one or two buildings in the calm of the night, the music of this movement is intimate. Soulful woodwind melodies rise in dark soaring spirals to evoke a nocturnal view. A violin plays repeated pizzicato (plucked) and arco (bowed) patterns, providing a counterpoint like the visual rhythm of hundreds of brightly-lit windows on a skyscraper seen from afar.
II. Looking Up offers another musical perspective on skyscrapers, as seen from below. In 1927 O’Keeffe painted the Radiator Building, looking from the ground up and leading the eye upward on a ladder of vision. In this movement I have composed a ladder of sound, featuring virtuosic and expressive music for the violin in ascending vertical lines. Meanwhile the ensemble is structured in complex light and dark patterns, like the moon reflecting off the side of a building. A reflective slow section features tremolo violin, double bass harmonics, bowed vibraphone, and musical flights of fancy heard in the clarinet and horn. All instruments combine to suggest the rising spirit of the American skyscraper: an inspiring flight heavenward.
David Maslanka (b. 1943): Concerto for Trombone and Wind Ensemble (2007)
Conversations with Gary Green and Tim Conner led to the idea that this concerto should be a “cross-over” piece, one that could be played by either a wind ensemble or a symphony orchestra minus most of the strings. Before I began composing, word came of the untimely death of Christine Nield Capote, wonderful
flutist and teacher, and dear friend to Gary, Tim and me. It was only a year ago, in July of 2006, that Gary, Christine and I worked together at Interlochen on a
deeply moving performance of my Song Book for Flute and Wind Ensemble. It was one of Christine’s favorite pieces. She had only nine months to live.
It became clear that the trombone concerto would be a memorial for Christine. To that end I chose an ensemble of orchestral winds, plus piano, double bass, percussion, and one solo cello. It feels presumptuous of me to say anything at all about this music! – presumptuous even to have written the piece, trying to
embody Christine’s still-living presence – her voice, her feelings, for us who are left behind. Following her death I saw Christine in a meditative vision. She gave me the most brilliant smile of recognition and reassurance. She then turned and walked away. Requiem – beloved – be content, be calm.
Christopher Rouse (b. 1949): Wolf Rounds (2006)
Wolf Rounds was commissioned by the Frost School of Music at the University of Miami for their wind ensemble. The piece is dedicated to the group’s music director, Gary Green.
My concept of the work was to introduce a series of “circular” musical ideas that would repeat over and over until metamorphosing to a new idea that would then also be repeated in the same fashion until becoming yet another. These musics would be of different lengths so that their repeated overlaps would produce a constantly changing sonic landscape. Sometimes these ideas would repeat verbatim; at other times there would be gradual but constant development within each repetition. Some instruments would introduce new musics while others would continue to repeat their material for a longer period of time before moving on to a new idea.
My first impulse was to entitle the work “Loops,” as it seemed to me that this was an accurate description of the processes involved in composing the piece. However, this title seemed a bit prosaic. The word “loops,” though, led me to think of the Latin word “lupus,” which means “wolf.” I was put in mind of the way in which wolves circle their prey, and these predatory rounds of course reminded me of the circular nature of my musical presentation. Thus the final title: Wolf Rounds.
The structure of the piece is sufficiently obvious, I think, to require no further exegesis here. It is scored for piccolo, two flutes, three oboes, two clarinets, bass clarinet, two bassoons, contrabassoon, baritone saxophone, bass saxophone, four horns, three trumpets, three trombones, tuba, timpani, percussion (five players), and string bass (amplified).
Wolf Rounds was completed in Baltimore, Maryland on October 16, 2006 and lasts approximately seventeen minutes in performance. It was given its
première by the Frost Wind Ensemble in New York City at Carnegie Hall on 29 March 2007.
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ROUSE, C.: Wolf Rounds / DAUGHERTY, M.: Ladder to ...