Samuel Adler: Cantos for Solo Instruments



First Chairs


Cantos for solo instruments




Samuel Adler, composer






Samuel Adler




Samuel Adler was born in Mannheim, Germany in 1928 and came to the United States in 1939. He holds a B.M. from Boston University, an M.A. from Harvard University, an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts from Wake Forest University, and honorary Doctor of Music from Southern Methodist University, St. Mary's College and Saint Louis Conservatory. During his tenure in the U.S. Army, he founded and conducted the Seventh Army Symphony Orchestra and because of the orchestra's great psychological and musical impact on the European cultural scene, he was awarded the Army's Medal of Honor.




Adler's catalog includes more than 400 published works in all media. He has published three books and written numerous articles in major magazines and reference books here and abroad.




From 1966 to 1994, Adler was professor of composition at the Eastman School of Music and chairman of the composition department since 1974. He has been a guest composer or conductor at more than 300 universities and colleges worldwide. He is currently on the faculty of The Juilliard School of Music.




Commissions and grants have been awarded by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Ford Foundation, the Cleveland Quartet, and the Cincinnati Symphony, among others. He has received the 1990 award from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, the Deems Taylor Award, and the "Distinguished Alumni Award" from Boston University as well as many others. His works have been performed by major symphonic, choral and chamber organizations in the United States, South America, Europe, Asia, and Israel. Adler has appeared as conductor with major orchestras both here and abroad and his music appears on the Albany, RCA, Vanguard, Crystal, CRI, Lyrichord, Mark, Turnabout, Gasparo, and Golden Crest record labels.




In 1970 I was asked by four of my trumpet playing friends and colleagues at the Eastman School to write a work for their instrument. I have always been interested in the fact that many of the composers of the past especially those who have "invented" new and personal styles wrote concert etudes for their instrument exploring the possibilities inherent in these new techniques. With the many styles of this century which coexist today it has always seemed to me logical to write concert etudes especially for those instruments that were more or less neglected by the great masters of the past for various reasons. Today we have performers on every instrument who are capable of every possible technical feat which a composer's language may demand. Therefore I decided to try to write a series of such etudes for friends who have asked me during these past 16 years. The reason for calling this series of concert solo works "Canto" is because I look upon each instrument as a "voice" performing a solo song.




Many years ago while I was a graduate student I had the privilege of studying with Paul Hindemith. Having written sonatas for almost every instrument, he became the model for this set also, and it is my ambition to do as many of these pieces as my lifetime will permit. More than simply inspiring the genre, Hindemith impressed on me the idea of each instrument having a distinct personality for a composer. Therefore, I have endeavored in all these works to try and explore each instrument and use it so its fullest potential is fulfilled. Certainly there could be other ways of performing on these instruments especially many avant garde techniques which I have chosen not to use, but within my style, whatever that may be, I think I have written pieces to challenge and interest both the performer as well as the listener. One more Hindemithian lesson should be recalled here and it was: "Always write for the very best individual or group." This I have tried to do here and by eliciting the support of some of the most outstanding performers for each instrument on this recording a composer's dream of perfection of performance has been realized.




Each of the Cantos is unique to the instrument. Some are a single movement; others are multi-movement works exploring the different aspects and "personalities" of each instrument. I am hopeful that the listener will have an adventure with each instrument and performer which will enhance anew the appreciation and enjoyment of what each of these members of the orchestra are able to do as soloists.




Canto I




This work was written in 1970 and each of its four short movements is dedicated to a different trumpeter; Phillip Collins, Daniel Patrylak, Vincent DiMartino and Sidney Mear. The first movement is a declamatory recitative demonstrating the bold quality of the instrument with glissandi and flutter tonguing offset with lyric passages as well as virtuosic phrases. It also explores the tremendous range of the trumpet. The second movement is a kind of march of tin soldiers with the trumpet muted and the player tapping the bell of the instrument in rhythm with the fingernail at various points during the piece. The third movement presents the beautifully lyric quality of the trumpet. The mute here is a "whispa" mute which gives the instrument a distant exceptionally soft sound. Once again extreme ranges are used. The final movement is a wild Toccata which utilizes quarter tones, glissandi, bending notes as used in jazz as well as flutter-tonguing. It brings this piece to an end with great abandon.




Canto XIV




Canto XIV was written for and is dedicated to Franklin Cohen, the great principal clarinetist of the Cleveland Orchestra.




I call this piece "A Klezmer Fantasy." If one expects a happy kind of semi-pop piece one will be very disappointed for this is a rather serious, "bitter-sweet" fantasy on the figure of a Klezmer. The Klezmorim were a group of town musicians active in the ghettos of Eastern Europe especially during the 19th century. They performed at life-cycle functions and took their music from the songs and dances they heard outside the ghetto walls adding their own brand of improvisation. Often they were fabulous technicians on their instruments but almost entirely self-trained. As I said, the music was that of their neighbors, and by the way of oppressors, which they rendered in a happy or sad manner befitting the occasion. The clarinet was almost always in every Klezmer ensemble and so I used this instrument to create a work which is to picture the Klezmer as a terrific musician possessing an incredible technique improvising his oppressed life in all its bitter-sweet aspects. A clown making merriment through his tears. The work is of such an improvisatory nature as to give the performer tremendous latitude for personal interpretation. Though some of the tunes sound very much like traditional "Chasidic" melodies, they are all original. The work is in one continuous movement divided into two parts: slowly and very free and a dance marked relaxed.




Canto XI




Canto XI for solo horn is dedicated to my good friend and colleague of over 30 years at the Eastman School, Verne Reynolds. The piece has a subtitle which reads "with a slight apology to Richard Strauss" since the famous horn call from "Till Eulenspiegel" forms the melodic basis of much of the material contained in the first section of the work. Canto XI is in one continuous movement divided into two distinct sections. The horn has always suggested to me as it did to the great 19th century composers the heroic voice of the orchestra. Therefore, the first portion of the piece is a romantic declamation of great lyric sweeps which the horn does so very well. The discerning listener will be able to detect Strauss' famous horn solo in several passages in this section as well as in the second portion which is a rollicking dance of the tarantella nature, a kind of perpetual motion in 6/8 time. It tends to be more pastoral than aggressive.




Canto XIII




While I was in St. Louis in 1993 for the performance of my Concerto for Woodwind Quintet and Orchestra, the piccolo player of that orchestra, Jan Gippo, lamented that there is so little piccolo literature written, and asked me if I would consider writing a piece for him. Canto XIII is the answer to that request and the work is dedicated to Jan Gippo.




The form of Canto XIII is that of a rondo with a recurring theme followed each time by a contrasting section. The theme itself is a Gregorian Kyrie. I have always loved liturgical chant whether it is Gregorian, Anglican, Lutheran or Jewish. The chant appears at the beginning and again after the first contrast


which is a dance, after the second contrast in the form of a grotesque march as well as after the final contrast called "Dance Variations" which are variants of the original dance section. Each time the chant is heard it too is varied; however, one will always be able to recognize it since the original first phrase opens every one of the variations.




A word about the character of the "Dance" and its variations. This dance is written without barlines so that no basic rhythm will be felt and the performer has a great deal of freedom. It is not a social dance like a waltz, a minuet or a fox-trot, rather it is like a medieval liturgical choreography such as we find in the early morality plays performed and danced in houses of worship.




When the piece is performed live, a bit of theatre may accompany it. The performer is asked to begin playing off-stage and walk in while performing the opening chant. Each contrasting section is to be performed from a different part of the stage and the performer quietly leaves the stage while playing the final chant so as to end it off-stage once again. All this movement is, of course, optional.




Canto II




Canto II was commissioned by my good friend Thomas G. Everett, a trombone player and now director of bands at Harvard University. Tom has commissioned a number of composers for he is passionately devoted to trying to expand the literature for the trombone.




The form of this Canto is similar to Canto I. It has four movements: a stately declamatory first movement; a jazzy scherzo as a second movement followed by a quiet lyrical third which ends with a very soft phrase played by the trombone muted. The final movement again is a "rip-roaring" finale featuring glissandi which are so very idiomatic for this instrument as well as the bouncy-jaunty character which I have always loved when the trombone is used in jazz, popular music or by composers like Gershwin, Copland and Bernstein.




Canto XV




After hearing a work for English horn and organ in 1996 played by Thomas Stacy and Michael Farris, I decided that I would love to write a work for English horn. To my great satisfaction after the concert, Tom Stacy, the fine English horn player of the New York Philharmonic, asked me to write a work for him. This Canto was written the following summer and premiered by Mr. Stacy during the summer of 1997.




To me the English horn is the pastoral voice of the orchestra and this work is a Pastorale. It again exploits the technical and acoustic possibilities of the instrument giving the performer a great deal of opportunity to demonstrate both technical as well as musical skill. The work falls into three sections. A broad introductory portion which is the longest of the three parts; this is followed by a faster but also very lyrical set of passages and ends with a varied and shortened return of the "A" section. The material of all the three sections is related by the use of a similar set of intervals which should be quite obvious to the listener because major gestures are freely repeated throughout the eight minute long work.




Canto IV




Canto IV for Saxophone was written in 1971 and dedicated to the great virtuoso Donald Sinta. It is in three short movements and tries to explore some of the avant garde techniques for the instrument. To me the saxophone presented the best instrument with which to experiment these techniques because it is the "newest" of all the instruments for which I was writing and did not have a great volume of literature from the past. The first movement explores the vibrato with which one plays the saxophone, from a rather straight tone to a wide vibrato. It also demonstrates the great agility and the tremendous range of the instrument. There are passages in which the instrument literally whispers while in others the full force of the saxophone's tone is exploited. The second movement is the most "normal" of the three and begins like a slow waltz; however it does feature quarter tones as well as variants in vibrato and tone bending. The final movement is characterized by the use of multiphonics, meaning that the player is asked to play more than one pitch at a time. For fingerings of these sounds, I am indebted to two great saxophonists Tom Mason and especially Ronald Caravau. These multiphonics give the saxophone tone a very raucous quality and bring the piece to a most intensive close.




Canto XII




This one again is a four movement work; in other words, four concert etudes dedicated to four great bassoon virtuosi. The first is for K. David Van Hoesen, another colleague of mine of many years at the Eastman School. Besides being a fine player he was a most effective teacher. Two of his students are the dedicatees of movements II and III: Judith LeClair, the principal bassoon of the New York Philharmonic and Stephen Paulson, first bassoon of the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra; while the final movement is dedicated to the great former principal bassoonist of the Philadelphia Orchestra, Sol Schoenbach, who was actually the person who urged me to write the piece.




The bassoon has sometimes been called the "jester" of the orchestra. While it does have some comical aspects it is capable of portraying as wide an array of emotions as any instrument in any ensemble. It is this very broad spectrum of the bassoon I tried to exploit in this work.




The first movement probes into the stentorian qualities of the instrument, not always loud but modulated in many ways. It is entitled "Sermon" and presents its message using the entire range of the instrument. This is followed by a Scherzo which shows how extremely agile a bassoon can be; fast brilliant sections are contrasted by humorous march-like passages. The most striking original bassoon passage is possibly the opening of Stravinsky's Le Sacre du Printemps. In the third movement entitled "A Sacre Serenade," I "play" with this beautiful phrase and have written a collection of variations stemming from it. The entire tune as Stravinsky wrote it does not appear until the climax towards the end of the short movement while bits and pieces of it occur throughout. The last movement is a Saltarello; a fast Italian dance which is whirling with sixteenth notes only rarely contrasted by a few lyric phrases. The entire four movements take about 14 minutes to perform.




-Samuel Adler






David Bilger, trumpet




Hailed by the New York Times for his playing of "easy brilliance" and by the Washington Post for his "engaging legato touch," David Bilger is principal trumpet of the Philadelphia Orchestra. Prior to joining the orchestra, he held the same position with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. A graduate of the Juilliard School of Music and the University of Illinois, Mr. Bilger has appeared as a soloist with the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Houston Symphony, the Oakland Symphony and the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, among others. David Bilger is on the faculty of Temple University and the Curtis Institute of Music.






Principal clarinetist of The Cleveland Orchestra since 1976, Franklin Cohen has distinguished himself as one of the outstanding clarinetists of his generation. His playing has been described as "hypnotic, impeccable, brilliantwith a vocal quality that would be the envy of any singer." Since winning first prize at the International Munich Competition, Cohen has pursued an active career as soloist, recitalist, chamber artist, teacher and orchestral soloist.


A graduate of The Juilliard School, Mr. Cohen has also been principal clarinetist of the Baltimore and American Symphonies. His recording of the Mozart Clarinet Concerto for Deutsche Grammophone received two Grammy awards. Mr. Cohen is on the faculty of the Cleveland Institute of Music.




William VerMeulen, French horn




Hailed as "an impeccable solo horn" by the Berlin Neue Zeit, William VerMeulen leads his generation of American horn soloists. Mr. VerMeulen has been principal horn of the Houston Symphony since 1990. Previously he has performed with the orchestras of Chicago, Columbus, St. Paul, Honolulu, and Kansas City. A winner of an array of awards and honors, Mr. VerMeulen was awarded the Outstanding Brass Player award of the 1985 Tanglewood Festival. Mr. VerMeulen is Professor of Horn at the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University. He received his training at the Interlochen Arts Academy and Northwestern University.






Jan Gippo, piccolo




The St. Louis Symphony's piccolo player, Jan Gippo is also recognized for his artistic direction of the St. Louis Botanical Gardens concert series. He is on the faculty of the University of Missouri, St. Louis University and Webster University. Mr. Gippo is the conductor of the St. Louis Conservatory Wind Ensemble and the Kammer Guild Orchestra. He received degrees from the University of Pacific and the New England Conservatory of Music. Mr. Gippo is a contributing editor and regular columnist for Flute Talk Magazine.




Charles Vernon, bass trombone




Charles Vernon joined the Chicago Symphony in 1986 as bass trombonist, coming from the Philadelphia Orchestra, where he had served in that same position since 1981. He held similar positions with both the Baltimore and San Francisco Symphonies. Vernon attended Brevard College and Georgia State University. He has been on the faculties of Catholic University, the Brevard Music Center, the Curtis Institute of Music, the Philadelphia College of the Performing Arts and DePaul University. A clinician for the Selmer Instrument Company and a frequent guest artist for the International Trombone Association, he has made numerous appearances as a soloist throughout the world.




Thomas Stacy, English horn




Thomas Stacy has been hailed as "the Heifetz of the English horn" by the New York Times. The New York Philharmonic's English hornist, Mr. Stacy has appeared as guest soloist with major orchestras in the United States and Europe including the Bournemouth Sinfonietta, and Leipzig's Gewandhaus Orchestra. Profiled on "CBS Sunday Morning," Mr. Stacy was compared to Segovia and Rampal as a pioneer soloist. Mr. Stacy has given the world premieres of more than 25 new works including compositions written for him by Gunther Schuller, Vincent Persichetti, and Bernard Hoffer. Mr. Stacy is on the faculty of The Juilliard School and the Mannes College of Music. He is a graduate of the Eastman School of Music.




John Sampen, saxophone




As one of America's leading concert saxophonists, John Sampen is also the principal saxophonist with the Toledo Symphony and the Toledo Concert Band. He has soloed with ensembles from all over the world, including the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble, the Nürnberg Symphony and the Biel Swiss Symphony, among others. Sampen has recorded with the Belgian and Swiss National Radio and is represented on the Orion, CRI and Capstone record labels. He holds degrees from Northwestern University. Dr. Sampen teaches at Bowling Green State University and Interlochen Arts Camp. Sampen has been involved with commissions and premieres of new music by Albright, Babbitt, Martino and Subotnick.




Judith LeClair, bassoon




Judith LeClair joined the New York Philharmonic as principal bassoon in 1981 at the age of 23. Since then, she has made more than 35 solo appearances with the orchestra. She made her professional debut at age 15, performing the Mozart Sinfonia Concertante with the Philadelphia Orchestra. A graduate of the Eastman School of Music, she has also served as principal bassoonist of the San Diego Symphony and the San Diego Opera Orchestra. Ms. LeClair is on the faculty of the Juilliard School and has appeared as a soloist with the San Francisco Symphony, the London Symphony and the Royal Academy Orchestra.




Canto I and Canto II are published by Oxford University Press; Canto IV is published by Dorn Publications; Canto XI, Canto XII, Canto XIII, Canto XIV and Canto XV are published by Ludwig Music Publishers.




Canto I producted and engineered by Richard Price, Squires Productions Inc. Canto XIV engineered by Bruce Egre. Canto XI produced by Christian Schubert and engineered by John Moran. Canto XIII engineered by Paul Hennerick. Canto II produced and engineered by Fred Baker, Sount Post Studios. Canto XV engineered by Robert Taibbi. Canto IV engineered by Mark Bunce. Canto XII engineered by Robert Taibbi.




Mastered by Richard Price, Squires Productions Inc.






Cover Design: Bates Miyamoto




Cover Illustration: Karen Danish










Samuel Adler


Canto I for Trumpet solo


Slowly, not in strict rhythm (1:45)


Like a march (straight mute throughout) (1:35)


Slowly and expressively (whisper mute throughout) (3:17)


Quite fast (1:29)


David Bilger, trumpet


Canto XIV (A Klezmer fantasy for Clarinet solo)


Slowly, expressively, but very freely (4:28)


Dance (6:49)


Franklin Cohen, clarinet


Canto XI for Horn solo


Slowly and quite freely, like a recitative (3:41)


Fast and very strictly in rhythm (2:58)


William VerMeulen, French horn


Canto XIII for Piccolo solo (8:07)


Jan Gippo, piccolo


Canto II for Trombone solo


Moderately fast (1:39)


Quite fast (1:11)


Slowly (2:54)


Fast and happy (1:40)


Charles Vernon, bass trombone


Canto XV for English Horn solo (8:37)


Thomas Stacy, English horn


Canto IV for Alto Saxophone solo


Quite fast and steady (2:11)


Slowly moving along (3:00)


Fast and furious (1:25)


John Sampan, saxophone


Canto XII for Bassoon solo


Sermon (4:24)


Scherzo (2:25)


Sacre Serenade (4:50)


Saltarello (2:22)


Judith LeClair, bassoon






Total Time = 70:57