Commissioned by Mario di Bonaventura for Barry Tuckwell and the Hopkins Centre Congregation of the Arts Festival at Dartmouth Congregation of the Arts, USA

  • 1+pic.1+ca.1+bcl.1+cbn/4[+3]210/3perc/
  • horn
  • 22 min

Programme Note

The starting point for this work was a picture postcard from Mexico by Barry Tuckwell: It showed several monolithic statues surrounding a central figure. This inspired the idea for the last section of the work where the orchestral horns are strategically placed round the perimeter of the hall, thus "surrounding" the soloist.

The Concerto for Horn was composed in 1970-71 in response to a commission from Mario di Bonaventura for the Hopkins Center Congregation of the Arts Festival at Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire. It is dedicated to Barry Tuckwell. It belongs to the series of my ‘dramatic-abstract’ works (following the Clarinet Concerto, Night Music and Memento Vitae); that is, dramatic in presentation and abstract because it contains no programme

Throughout the work the brass section form a kind of "concertante" group set against the rest of the orchestra — they break up the mood of the opening misterioso with their parodia con violenza and later overwhelm the capriccioso with wild fanfares. The percussion, spread around the back of the orchestra, helps to build this climax, and when the trumpets take up new positions on either side of the platform, the scene is set for the horns to move out into the hall to explore the spatial effects of this arrangement in a very dramatic way.

One particular effect used in the Concerto came about after Barry Tuckwell had heard some recordings of Don Ellis where he uses an extra valve to allow for quarter tones. With the horn some of the natural harmonics are a quarter of a tone flat, so in certain registers a quarter tone scale is perfectly feasible, and I have used Barry’s fingerings for the quarter-note scale here and in other works.

Programme note by Thea Musgrave


Horn Concerto


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