Performances this Week

There are several performances coming up this week for me, and I’m looking forward to all of them. Tonight things will kick off with a performance by the Black Bayou Brass, in our annual faculty recital. As usual, we have a varied and exciting program, ranging from the Renaissance through the 21st Century. We performed many of the works programmed on the first half on tour last semester, but for the second half we’ll be playing a new work for us, Anthony Plog‘s Triple Concerto (cover image linked from the Editions Bim website).  Plog is an internationally known composer and trumpet performer (though he retired from performing in 2001), with many fine works for brass instruments. In addition to the Triple Concerto (1995), he also has two horn concertos and several chamber works with horn. Originally for brass trio (trumpet, horn, trombone) with orchestra, his Triple Concerto also exists in versions with wind band accompaniment and piano reduction. Pianist Dr. Richard Seiler will join us for the version of the piece with piano accompaniment. For those familiar with Plog’s style this concerto is consistent with his other works for brass.  If you are new to Plog’s music, his writing is full of big contrasts – melodic, rhythmic, and dynamic.  Often within a single movement long arching melodies are quickly replaced with angular, disjunct ones, and vice versa. Each of the three brass instruments gets plenty of solo lines, along with some nice ensemble passages as well. One of the most challenging things for me about Plog’s music is his use of what I call “semi-familiar” patterns – patterns which look like things I’ve seen before, but with enough twists to make things interesting. As an example, here’s a short excerpt from the horn part in the final movement. Notice that the passage looks mostly chromatic at first glance, but there are some whole steps and larger intervals in there as well (World Copyright 1995, Editions Bim).  The tempo here is approximately quarter=132.

These kind of passages can be a nightmare to sight read, but thankfully after plenty of practice they become more familiar.

Tomorrow I’ll be joining soprano Claire Vangelisti to perform a movement of Vitaly Bujanovsky’s Evening Songs for soprano and horn. To hear a recording of the movement – and the entire piece – check out this YouTube video featuring Sofia Kapetanakou (soprano) and Antonis Lagos (horn). It’s a wonderful piece, and great for adding variety to either a horn or vocal recital. One of the most striking things about the movement we’ll be performing (“Evening Vocalise”) is the variety of timbres the composer gets out of just two instruments. For example, one passage is marked a due corni, meaning “as in [the style] of two horns.” The singer is meant to imitate a horn sound, as used in the famous “horn fifths” pattern so common in Classical era works. And later in the piece the hornist is asked to produce multiphonics by playing one note and humming another. If you don’t know this work be sure to check it out.

To cap off the week I’ll be playing 3rd horn with the Rapides Symphony on a program titled “Love and Loss.” Works will include Wagner’s Siegfried Idyll and Prelude to Act III of Lohengrin, Bernstein’s Symphonic Dances from West Side Story, and Strauss’s Tod und Verklärung (Death and Transfiguration). It’s a big program, with plenty of great brass writing. My Lohengrin part says that it has the “concert ending as recorded by Arturo Toscanini,” and includes all the customary transposition changes found in the part – horn in G, E, D, A-flat, and F. I’m not as familiar with Tod und Verklärung as with other tone poems by Strauss, but needless to say there are the usual sweeping melodies and intense counterpoint found in many of his other orchestral works. The Bernstein is also a standard in the repertory, with its own share of cool horn parts.

Here’s to a busy week!

Orchestra Season Preview

As I’ve mentioned several times in this blog, one of the great things about my job is the variety of musical activities I get to participate in, one of my favorites being regular performances with the Monroe and Rapides symphony orchestras, and occasional work with the Shreveport and South Arkansas symphonies.  This year is shaping up to be very exciting in terms of repertoire, with several masterpieces as well as some new and less known works being programmed.  I’ll write more about the individual concerts and repertoire in the future, but for now here’s a month by month summary (so far) of my orchestral playing for this year.


  • Pops concerts with the South Arkansas Symphony (Beatles Tribute Band) and Rapides Symphony (Cajun music group BeauSoleil).  For better or worse, pops concerts are a reality in orchestral music, and I actually think they’re a great way to start a season.  In Rapides the first pops concert is usually outdoors, and free to the public, which can really help build audiences for future concerts.


  • Rapides Symphony Orchestra, Louisiana International Piano Competition Finals.  This competition is held every other year, and brings artists from around the globe to Alexandria, LA.  The RSO accompanies three finalists in performances of complete concertos for the final round, and I am always impressed with the quality of the soloists.  The big name works – Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov, Liszt, etc. – almost always make an appearance, and it’s really fun getting to accompany these outstanding soloists.  On a side note, the last time the competition was held we played Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 twice in one night because two of the finalists had chosen it for the competition.
  • Monroe Symphony Orchestra, The MSO opens its 41st season with En Saga, by Sibelius, The Moldau, by Smetana, and Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1.  The concerto will feature Minjeong Kim, winner of the MSO’s Emerging Artists Competition.


  • Rapides Symphony Orchestra, Holiday Concert
  • Monroe Symphony Orchestra, Sounds of the Season


  • Rapides Symphony Orchestra, Strauss, Death and Transfiguration, Bernstein, Symphonic Dances from West Side Story, Wagner, Siegfried Idyll.
  • Monroe Symphony Orchestra, Respighi, Pines of Rome, Glazunov, Violin Concerto in A minor, Shostakovich, Festive Overture, Roger Jones, Live Oak (premier performance)


  • Monroe Symphony Orchestra, Spring Pops


  • Rapides Symphony Orchestra, Leoncavallo, I Pagliacci

As always, I’m looking forward to working with great colleagues on great repertoire, and taking what I learn from these experiences into the teaching studio. There will also be numerous chamber performances with our faculty brass trio and other groups, as well as some performances and presentations at conferences – more on those later!

Season Finales

With the end of the academic term in most U.S. colleges and universities quickly approaching, both students and faculty are gearing up for some very busy weeks ahead.  In schools of music, this usually means preparing for juries, large ensemble performances, and degree recitals. I like this time of the semester, but it has admittedly been difficult for me to carve out some time to write blog posts. I’ll do my best to keep my head above water for the next couple of weeks, and try to keep the posts coming.  Adding to the excitement are two orchestral concerts featuring the Rapides Symphony Orchestra (April 30) and the Monroe Symphony Orchestra (May 7).  I’m actually writing this blog post on the same day as the RSO concert, so by the time you read it the concert will have come and gone.  However, if you live locally you still have time to get your tickets for the MSO concert.  Both programs are season finales, and will feature some great repertoire highlighting all of the sections in each orchestra.  In Rapides we’ll be playing William Walton’s Crown Imperial march, which was an inspired bit of programming considering the recent royal wedding, as well as Borodin’s Polovetsian Dances, Respighi’s Pines of Rome, and a relatively new work by  Christopher Lee called Interiors.   Since the rest of the program consists of well known orchestral standards, I’ll confine my remarks to Interiors. Written in 2007, Interiors is an orchestral showpiece which explores a number of different colors and sound effects.  The piece calls for quarter tones in several instruments, as well as some intricate rhythms and technical passages throughout the orchestra.  Overall it’s a very exciting piece and should go over well with the audience.  Follow this link to listen to a recording of the piece: One other interesting note about the performance is that the composer will be giving a virtual lecture on his work to the entire audience via Skype, utilizing the hall’s speaker system and large projection screen.

Jumping ahead to the following week, the MSO will close out its season with Wagner’s Overture to Die Meistersinger, Rimsky-Korsakov’s Capriccio Espagnol, Listz’s Totentanz (featuring the winner of the MSO’s Young Artist Competition), and Rachmaninov’s symphonic poem The Rock.
I wasn’t familiar with the Rachmaninov, but it (along with the rest of the program) promises to be exciting for both the audience and the orchestra.  If you have played the Wagner, you know that it alone is quite a long blow, so I’ll be making sure to pace myself throughout rehearsals and the performance.

There are I’m sure a number of other regional and smaller orchestras throughout the country who are preparing their season closers, and if you perform with one or more of them I wish you good luck and great performances!

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