Concerto for Horn and Orchestra
Hear excerpt Movement I
Hear excerpt Movement II
Hear excerpt Movement III
Concerto for Horn and Orchestra was written for Stefan de Leval Jezierski of the Berlin Philharmonic and premiered by the University of Miami Symphony Orchestra on Festival Miami. Stefan and I met in New York (where his orchestra was on tour) through a mutual friend and colleague, Lisa Crawford, who is currently the Executive Director for the Greensboro Symphony Orchestra. She had given him a CD of my bassoon concerto and he asked me to write him a similar work. I was enamored with Stefan's rich sound and lyric phrasing and have made use of these qualities in his concerto.
The work is in three movements, (fast, slow, fast) and while not programmatic, each has an atmosphere relating to three people who have been influential in my musical life since arriving in Miami .
The first movement, Allegro, opens quietly and mysteriously , but quickly develops into a sardonic march with angular melodies and chromatic harmonies. This “march” is interrupted by the solo horn with a cadenza and the introduction of two new themes, each more lyric and tranquil than the other. With the development, the tempo gradually increases until the orchestra and soloist reach a frenzy of activity with nowhere to go but to silence -- the march theme returns in a brief coda -- now resolved and devoid of the musculature it possessed in the opening. The other themes will not return until the final movement of the concerto.There are several moments in this movement where the trumpet takes over the horn melody, in effect extending it’s range. There is also considerable counterpoint between these two instruments in the development . This movement is an homage to the legendary Gil Johnson, former Principal Trumpet of the Philadelphia Orchestra, and current Professor of Trumpet at UM. A hallmark of Gil's playing has always been the lyricism.
The second movement, Andante ma non troppo, lusingando, is the lyric center of the concerto. An extended horn cadenza recalls a tenor aria from my second opera “River of Shifting Sands” and the tranquillo ending stands in counterpoint to the tragic final moments of the opera - as if one could change fate. This movement is an homage to the late Glenn Janson. Glenn was also a member of the Philadelphia Orchestra and an esteemed teacher and colleague. The elegiac nature of the horn quartet near the end of the movement recalls a life-changing month we spent together in China working with the members of the Central Philharmonic Orchestra in Beijing. The influence of Glenn's rich tone quality and phrasing can still be heard in Beijing.
The final Vivace, is unrelenting in its pulse, even when lyric sections from earlier in the concerto are recalled. The melodic materials come directly from the first and second movements and are only altered rhythmically. Note for note they are the same. This movement pays homage to Bill Hipp, Dean of the School of Music, for his powerful vision, unimaginable energy and selfless dedication.
Full Score, Parts and Perusal CD available from:
Miami Herald (James Roos) 9/19/00
"The high point of Saturday's Festival Miami opener was the world premiere of his concerto for French Horn and Orchestra...accessible, effective, amiable...a melodious vehicle... "
"...first movement sets up a pulsing aura of mystery...Prokofiev-like swagger..."
"Overall effect of the 20 minute concerto is simply that of a tightly constructed, sophisticatedly crafted...score...echoes not only of sardonic Prokofiev, but also Shostakovich and Mahler...yet the concerto is not much less identifiably Sleeper's than, say, Barber's music is Barber's.""[It recreates] old [worlds] nostalgically and eloquently..."
Sun-Sentinel (Larry Johnson) 9-19-00
"...his music is tonal and melodic [yet] Sleeper avoids high-sucrose neo-Romanticism for a darker, more personal and edgy style, bristling with nervous energy. ""...an attractive and well-crafted work, one that would surely reward adventurous horn players."