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Photograph of four young musicians playing French Horn during a rehearsal at Interlochen. Black and white photo.
Interlochen, Michigan. National music camp where 300 or more young musicians study symphonic music for eight weeks each summer. French horns during symphony practice. Arthur Siegel, ca. 1942. Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Black-And-White Negatives, Prints and Photographs Division.

Horn Trios for Spring Days

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The Concerts from the Library of Congress series embarks on a two-day immersion into the horn trio repertoire this coming weekend. Per usual, we’re pulling out all the stops, with the help of the distinguished Takt Trio (Austin Wulliman, violin, David Byrd-Marrow, horn, and Conor Hanick, piano). Two Library of Congress commissions will receive their Washington, D.C. premieres. The legendary Brahms Horn trio (Trio for violin, horn and piano, op. 40) will be performed (in the presence of the manuscript from the Gertrude Clarke Whittall Foundation Collection). And, audiences can hear the Ligeti Horn trio not once, but twice. The Ligeti, itself a twenty-first-century masterwork, provides the connection between standard repertoire and the wonderful, creative new works of composers Hilda Paredes and Marcos Balter.  

Handwritten music manuscript page from the Brahms horn trio, holograph manuscript
Brahms Trio for violin, horn and piano, op. 40 (1865), holograph manuscript, Gertrude Clarke Whittall Foundation Collection, Music Division.

If the iconic opening horn melody in the Brahms is not enough to inspire at trip to the Coolidge Auditorium this weekend, the opportunity to experience new works by Hilda Paredes and Marcos Balter offers you an opportunity for musical discovery. Paredes’ new work, “Koan” (2023), was co-commissioned by the Koussevitzky Music Foundation in the Library of Congress. A tribute to Ligeti for the occasion of his centennial, Paredes states in her program note that Ligeti’s “music was an inspiration since my student days.” She also pays homage to the Brahms horn trio in “Koan.” Paredes is one of Mexico’s most celebrated composers who is having an impact on the global stage. Her opera Harriet, Scenes in the Life of Harriet Tubman received widespread recognition and her music has been performed throughout the U.S., Europe, Mexico and beyond. 

“I welcomed the invitation from Takt Trio to contribute to his centenary and decided to render a tribute by encoding the letters of his name into a melodic/harmonic cell which opens (and closes) the work, firstly in the horn and later held as a harmony by the e-bows on the piano: A, G,E, Bb, (which would correspond to: LiGETi).” -Hilda Paredes  

Left: Marcos Balter; Right: Hilda Paredes (courtesy of the artists)

Marcos Balter’s “Atlas” (2023) explores “the concept of territoriality, where seemingly disparate and fragmented sonic ideas gradually converge into larger patterns through a combination of repetition and mutation” (Balter, program note). Currently the Fritz Reiner Professor of Musical Composition at Columbia University, Balter’s music has been performed by numerous artists who have appeared on the Library’s concert series, including the International Contemporary Ensemble, JACK Quartet, Ensemble Dal Niente, ACME, yMusic, and Matthias Pintscher. “Atlas” was co-commissioned by the Verna and Irving Fine Endowment in the Library of Congress, the VIVO Music Festival and Ensemble intercontemporain.  

Registrations for the Takt Trio concerts are available at loc.gov/concerts. Direct links: Friday, May 17 at 8 p.m.; Saturday, May 18 at 2 p.m. Preconcert programs will precede both concerts (90 minutes prior) in the Whittall Pavilion). Friday’s preconcert program is a conversation with the artists and Saturday’s program is a lecture (“Is That Natural? A Closer Look at the Horn Trios of Brahms and Ligeti”) by David Plylar. 

Portraits of three musicians, one holding a horn and one holding a violin
Takt Trio (courtesy of the artists).

The Irving and Verna Fine Endowment in the Library of Congress
The Takt Trio’s appearances at the Library were also made possible by the Verna and Irving Fine Endowment in the Library of Congress. The Verna and Irving Fine Endowment in the Library of Congress was established in 2000 through a generous bequest of Verna Rudnick Fine (1920-1999) as a memorial to her husband, the distinguished American composer and educator Irving Gifford Fine (1914-1962).  

Irving Fine, Verna Fine, Lukas Foss, Harold Shapero, Tanglewood, 1946. Irving Fine Collection, Music Division.

A member of the “Boston School” of composers, Irving Fine served on the music faculty at Harvard from 1939-1950, where he become a close associate of Aaron Copland, Igor Stravinsky, Serge Koussevitzky, and Leonard Bernstein. Fine experimented with many styles throughout his career, including serialism, romantic expressivity, and neoclassicism; Copland praised Fine’s music for its “keenly conceived sonorities” and “elegance,” while Virgil Thompson cited its “unusual melodic grace.” During Fine’s twelve years as an educator, mentor, and administrator at Brandeis University, he founded and chaired its School of Creative Arts, brought Bernstein and Copland to the faculty of the young institution, and helped establish it as an internationally recognized breeding ground for artistic talent. After the death of her husband, Verna Fine embarked on a career as an artist management consultant in New York City, earning a highly respected reputation as a champion and advocate for American composers.  

Both Hilda Paredes and Marcos Balter are active educators, exemplifying the legacies of Serge Koussevitzky and Irving Fine as they continue to create at the highest level while supporting the development of future generations of composers. The Fine Endowment is also supporting the Saturday, June 15, 8 p.m. concert featuring Zephyros Winds with Audrey Andrist, piano. They will premiere a new Library of Congress commission from composer Jeff Scott, a new piano quintet transcription of Fine’s Diversions. 

Enjoy a master class performance of Irving Fine’s Fantasia for string trio from 2012. Students of the Peabody Preparatory Performance Academy for Strings were coached by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Richard Wernick, a former student of Irving Fine. Master class sessions can be viewed here.

Ligeti and the Library
The Library of Congress’s Performing Arts Reading Room is a destination for the study of György Ligeti (1923-2006). In addition to providing access to scholarship about the famed Hungarian composer, the Library holds Ligeti manuscripts and has several engaging digital collection items for research. Highlights include: 

  • Ensemble intercontemporain performance of Ligeti’s Chamber concerto for thirteen instrumentalists with Matthias Pintscher conducting (2013) – Video, Program Notes 
  • Holograph manuscript of Ligeti’s “Ramifications for string orchestra” (1968-69), a Koussevitzky Music Foundation in the Library of Congress commission 
  • Web archive: “György Ligeti” webpage from Karsten Witt Musik Management 
  • Blog: “Ligeti Split” post by David Plylar from Ligeti’s 90th birthday 
  • Interview: Dudok Quartet Conversation on their Performance of Ligeti’s String Quartet no. 2 (2021) 
  • Concert: Taka Kigawa performs selected Ligeti Etudes (2017) 
  • There are numerous scores and recordings of works by Ligeti in the Library’s Collections. Visit catalog.loc.gov to learn more. 
  • Ligeti’s work is also evident in the Music Division’s special collections. Explore findingaids.loc.gov to learn more. 

It is also worth reminding our readers that the Library of Congress is home to the Gunther Schuller (1925-2015) Papers. Schuller is one of the great figures of American music in the twentieth century. He was a prolific composer, author and conservatory president. In keeping with the theme of this post, we celebrate the fact that he was one of the all-time great American horn players, especially for the splash he made with his facility in both jazz and classical music. 

Originally scheduled for spring 2023 to commemorate Ligeti’s centennial, these concerts were postponed due to repair of the Coolidge Auditorium. The Music Division is thrilled for audiences to finally hear the trio’s undoubtedly memorable performances. 

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