Con moto, flessibile Presto Antiphon (Tempo giusto) Adagio cantabile
Feb 21, 1993
Feb 22, 1993
HARBISON - "Twilight Music" for Horn, Violin, and Piano
Composed in 1984
"The horn and the violin," says American composer John Harbison, "have little in common. Any merging must be trompe I'oreille [auditory sleight-of-hand], and they share material [in "Twilight Music"] mainly to show how differently they project it." Much the same comment might be made about an earlier work for the same rare combination of French horn, violin, and piano, the Op. 40 Trio by Brahms.
A native of Orange, New Jersey, Harbison studied composition at Harvard (with Walter Piston), the Berlin Hochschule für Musik (with Boris Blacher), and Princeton (with Roger Sessions and Earl Kim). Besides teaching and conducting in the music division of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harbison has served as composer-in-residence for the Pittsburgh Symphony, the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the 1991 Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival; he has been the recipient of Guggenheim, Fromm, and Koussevitzky foundation grants, and appeared as a guest conductor with the Boston and San Francisco symphonies among several other organizations.
"Twilight Music,'" Harbison comments in notes for a recording of the work by the American Chamber Players, "was written directly after my First String Quartet; both pieces move toward an abstract and compact way of working, in reaction to the large orchestral works that precede them." These large compositions include his Symphony No. 1 and a Violin Concerto; "Twilight Music," he tells us, "shelters abstract structural origins beneath a [warm] exterior." ;
On the subject of horn sound vs. violin sound, he notes: "The two meet casually at the beginning and part rather formally at the end. In between, they follow the piano into a Presto [the second movement], which dissolves into the twilight half-tones that named the piece." The four movements of "Twilight Music" are played without pause; the last one, unusually, is in the slow tempo of "Adagio cantabile." Harbison has identified the third movement, "Antiphon," with its alternating patterns, as "the crux: the origin of the piece's intervallic character. It is the kind of music I am often drawn to, where the surface seems simplest and most familiar, where the piece seems to make no effort, but some purposeful, independent musical argument is at work."