Concerto for Horn and String Orchestra (2014)
Approximate duration = 22 minutes
LIVE Premiere Performance
Alex Moxley, French Horn
Trae Blanco, Conductor
Movement 1 of Concerto for Horn and String Orchestra explores the possible combinations of 5 distinct musical events. Each of the 5 string voices gets the opportunity to perform each event, against the others, while the horn plays each of the 5 events. In between, each event is treated by all the strings voices at once, although out of time with each other creating interesting rhythmic syncopations. During these sections the horn repeats an event, 1 of the 5, but different than what the strings are playing. Since each event is of a different duration, the juxtaposition of events is continually shifting the sense of where the rhythm falls, and distorting the listener’s perception of time. Also, the use of dynamics, the gradual crescendos and diminuendos, are an important component to the movement. Although individual parts may not be technically challenging, the overlapping rhythms, combined with the gradually increasing and decreasing dynamics, make this a challenging ensemble piece.
Movement 2 is written around a 9 chord progression of different four note chords. The notes of each chord make up the melody of the horn, which adds a note higher to the melody with each new round of the 9 chord progression. As the progressions continue, subtle changes are added to the string arrangement which gradually take the piece higher. The entire piece is also written in a meter of 9 beats (although notated as 4/4 + 5/4). The final progressions has the strings holding the C major 9th chord while the horn plays through the entire chord progression one more time. This results in some interesting dissonant clashes which spice up the otherwise tonal sounding movement.
Movement 3 has three distinct sections, each of which alternates between a minor 7th and major 7th chord with the same root. There is also 12 tone serialism in the first and third sections, as well as rhythmic serialism in the 3rd section.
The piece is not meant to showcase the technical prowess of the virtuosic horn player or contemporary extended techniques of playing. Rather it is showcasing the beautiful richness of tones capable of the instrument, and in combination of a string ensemble, although I hope and expect, that there will be plenty of other musical challenges for the hornist, as well as the ensemble as a whole.