Horn Concerto


horn and orchestra
Solo Instrument(s) with Orchestra
4(III+IV=picc).2.ca.3(III=E♭cl).bcl.2.cbsn - 4220 - timp(2) - perc(2): mar/susp.cym/2 tam-t/tgl - cel - harp - strings (
Commissioned by Suntory Limited for the Suntory International Program for Music Composition in 1994
First Performance
7.10.94, Suntory Hall, Tokyo: Tokyo Metropolitan Orchestra/Oliver Knussen/Barry Tuckwell

Score 0-571-51667-X and piano score and horn part 0-571-51824-9 on sale, parts for hire

Programme Notes

The wish to compose something for Barry Tuckwell had been somewhere at the back of my mind for almost as long as I can remember. Hence, when I received an invitation form the Suntory Foundation to write a piece for performance in the magnificent acoustic of Suntory Hall, Tokyo, a work for horn and orchestra seemed appropriate, as I imagined that the subtle colour-gradations, wide dynamic range and what might be termed ‘spatial’ characteristics of the horn sound world would be heard to ideal effect in that room (which I knew from having conducted a concert there in 1992). The relationship between the sound of the instrument itself and the space around it is, it seems to me, especially critical in the case of the horn, and this aspect is particularly difficult to reflect accurately in a recording. Thoughts of this nature eventually led to the conception of a predominantly lyrical work which employs a large orchestra (including two sets of timpani) in a very economical manner. The music began as a grateful response to more than thirty years of hearing Barry Tuckwell play and, as I composed it, assumed more and more character of a Nachtmusik (in a Mahlerian sense). My working plan was for two parts, Fantastico (a sonata-allegro) and Adagio (variations on a ground bass), framed and connected by cadenza-like passages. But in the process of composition these designs telescoped unexpectedly, and the result is a single movement, playing for about thirteen minutes in all, in which the interlocked old forms are only vestigial frames for a very allusive piece about aspects of the character of my favourite instrument of all. My Horn Concerto, composed in August and September of 1994, was played for the first time in Suntory Hall, Tokyo on 7th October 1994 by Barry Tuckwell with the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra under my direction. The score was revised in October 1995.

© Oliver Knussen

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