CODA | January 2016
Generations of extraordinary talent have guest performed with this Orchestra, some of them legendary composers, and these fruitful collaborations have amplified Cincinnati’s indelible mark on the world’s musical landscape. Among the luminaries are Sergei Rachmaninoff, Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copland, John Adams, Béla Bartók, John Williams, Richard Strauss, Duke Ellington, John Philip Sousa, and Gunther Schuller, to name a few.
When Schuller passed away in June at the age of 89, The Guardian declared he was “one of the most effective leaders of the avant-garde revolution in the 1960s and 70s. He was a prolific composer, with more than 200 works to his name (more than 50 of them for full orchestra), an instrumentalist, conductor, writer on music, impresario, festival director, music publisher, record company owner, jazz musician and arranger. In fact, there werefew points on the compass of music production where Schuller’s inexhaustible energies did not bear fruit….”
Well into his eighties, the composer told NPR, “Why are we sitting there with a blank piece of paper, manuscript paper, and an idea comes to us suddenly? Where does it come from, you know? We don’t know. We will never know.”
This brings us to the world premiere this month of Schuller’s Symphonic Triptych, commissioned by the CSO. Where did it come from? In Schuller’s own words, “We never know,” but regardless of this piece’s inspiration, it is, in the words of program annotator Peter Laki, “fitting…that his final large orchestral work should receive its posthumous world premiere here.”
It’s fitting because Schuller had a very special connection to the CSO. At the ripe old age of 18, he was appointed by then-Music Director Eugene Goossens as Principal French Horn of the CSO, and this extraordinarily talented young man was only 19 when he performed his own Horn Concerto No. 1 as the soloist with the CSO on Music Hall’s stage.
I encourage you to learn more about Schuller and this new piece on page 35.