Two years prior to composing the piece, I saw “Death of the Poet Walter Rheiner” by Conrad Felixmüller at the Art Institute of Chicago. The painting was enormous, with a contorted figure suspended in the air, but the colors were what struck me the most. The artist used vibrant and deep blues, purples, reds and greens to portray this night scene. I’ve always connected strongly to colors, so my reaction to the painting was an emotional one. The figure in the painting, Walter Rheiner, was a poet and close friend of Felixmüller. The painting shows Rheiner’s last moments before his death, which inspired me to compose Death of the Poet in the style of an Elegy.
T.J. Cole ©2019
Mozart’s trademark perfection, sublime beauty and Till Eulenspiegel-esque tomfoolery coalesce in his Horn Concerto No. 4. The hunting horn (a valveless coil of tubes resembling a Christmas-tree ornament) by Mozart’s time had evolved into a solo instrument with the advent of hand-stopping technique. When horn virtuoso Joseph Leutgeb befriended the seven-year-old Wolfgang, Leutgeb had already premiered a concerto by Haydn among others. Yet, Mozart wrote for him no less than four(!) concertos in an increasingly operatic style, more chromatic and singing than his predecessors, while referencing traditional hunting horn in the final movements. Mozart the prankster littered the scores with playful banter at his friend’s expense: “Wolfgang Amadé Mozart takes pity on Leutgeb, ass, ox, and fool”; “A sheep could trill like that”; and “Enough, enough!”. His joke in Horn Concerto No. 4? Writing the solo part in four different colors of ink — red, blue, green, and black — for no discernible reason other than to confuse Leutgeb (and generations of musicologists). An influential teacher of mine, Hermann Baumann, recorded this work in 1985 with the SPCO and Pinchas Zukerman. Now 35 years later, I am thrilled to take one of the most beloved horn concertos for a spin.
James Ferree ©2019