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La Grande Vitesse (2009)
for solo trumpet, french horn, trombone and orchestra
Commissioned by the Grand Rapids Symphony, David Lockington, Music Director
Premiered on October 29, 2009 with Charlie Lea, trumpet, Erich Peterson, french horn, Dan Mattson, trombone and the Grand Rapids Symphony, conducted by John Varineau
Program Notes by the composer:
As with many important projects, it sometimes is necessary to have patience, but then to be prepared to act quickly! I don’t even recall when Erich Peterson (Assistant Principal Horn of the Grand Rapids Symphony) and I first touched on the idea of my writing a solo piece to include him, but by the time the commissione was finalized with the Grand Rapids Symphony (May, 2009), and the premiere date was set, for October of the same year, I knew I had to get busy! The new work was to include Erich and two of his brass colleagues, who were also good friends of mine: Charley Lea on trumpet, and Dan Mattson on trombone.
While in Grand Rapids that May, I took a stroll through downtown pondering what sort of piece I might compose for the decided-upon brass triple concerto. It was during this walk that I happened upon Alexander Calder’s 43′ high sculpture: “La Grande Vitesse” (Great Swiftness). I had written music based on Calder before, and so seeing this sculpture while at the same time considering another new musical project seemed a bit prophetic, and ostensibly not to be ignored.
I was immediately struck with the idea of a piece that would exhibit a constant forward motion; not necessarily imitating through sound a rapidly flowing river, but capturing that inherent energy while allowing the soloists to form a great musical arc (much like the bottom shape of the sculpture) on top of the churning orchestra. Therefore, much of the piece is up-tempo and spirited, though the 2nd movement does allow for some slower and softer playing by the soloists and orchestra. [Coincidentally enough, that Calder sculpture, as the first federally funded work of art in the U.S., was dedicated in the year of my birth and thus, like me, is 40 years old.]
I am extremley grateful to Charley, Erich and Dan, for their dedication to this project. I am also indebted to Maestros John Varineau (conductor of the premiere) and David Lockington, Music librarian Sarah Bowman, GRS Executive Peter Kjome and Orchestra Manager Roger Nelson, for their faith in the continued creation of new music, and believing in the ideal that worthwhile music can and still should be something in which to be invested. I would also like to extend my appreciation to my colleagues in the Grand Rapids Symphony, for their talents in performing with such unity and beauty, and without whom not a note of this new piece could possibly be heard.