Concerto Repertoire

Rosewood Dreaming

by William Cahn

Publisher: Marimba Productions, Inc.

Duration: Approximately 20 minutes

Instrumentation:

2 Flutes

2 Oboes

2 Clarinets in Bb

2 Bassoons

4 Horns in F

2 Trumpets

2 Trombones

Bass Trombone

Tuba

Percussion (5 players: 4.3 Marimba, 4.5 Marimba, Vibraphone, 2 Suspended Cymbals, 6 single-headed concert toms, Glockenspiel, Digital Keyboard)

Timpani

Harp

Solo Marimba

Strings

Commissioned by and composed for Leigh Howard Stevens, the work was initially intended to be a concerto for marimba and orchestra. The three-movement work soon evolved into a piece for Stevens to perform with the world-renowned percussion chamber ensemble, NEXUS. After being transcribed for wind ensemble by the composer, only then did it finally achieve its original goal of being a concerto for marimba and orchestra.

Full of memorable tunes, you will find yourself unconsciously singing the melodies long after the concert is over. Can be heard on the NEXUS CD, Lullaby

Concerto for Orchestra and Marimba

by Raymond Helble

Publisher: Marimba Productions, Inc.

Duration: Approximately 20 minutes

Instrumentation:

2 Flutes

Piccolo

2 Oboes

2 Clarinets in Bb

Bass Clarinet

2 Bassoons

Contrabassoon

4 Horns in F

3 Trumpets

2 Trombones

Bass Trombone

Tuba

Percussion

Harp

Solo Marimba

Strings

Helble’s Concerto for Orchestra and Marimba was written for Leigh Howard Stevens, to whom it is dedicated.  Its first and third movements were performed by him in 1975, with the Rochester (New York) Philharmonic under the direction of Taavo Virkhaus.  The composer later revised them and added a second movement.  The complete work was premiered in 1981 by the Denver (Colorado) Symphony under the direction of Gaetano Delogu. 

 

The first movement, Moderato e Sostenuto, is based on a main theme whose principal feature is the rising and falling figure -- four notes going up and four down.  After a long orchestral opening, the soloist finally joins in and develops the musical ideas in a long solo.  The second movement is Scherzo, Assai moderato, in which orchestra and soloist are set in great contrast;  the one rather ponderous and slow, the other light and at times furiously fast.  From the beginning, the music emphasizes Mr. Helble’s contrapuntal writing.  The finale starts with a portentous slow introduction, Adagio molto, in which more rising and falling motives are contrapuntally treated.  The marimba leads the way into the driving, rhythmic main section, Allegro molto e con brio.  The concerto is scored for piccolo and two flutes, two oboes, two clarinets and bass clarinet, two bassoons and contrabassoon, four horns, three trumpets, three trombones and tuba, timpani, percussion, harp and strings. 

In the title of this work, “orchestra” and “marimba” are in reverse order from the traditional, because Concerto for Orchestra and  Marimba is first and foremost a showcase for the orchestra.  

Concerto for Marimba and Orchestra, Op. 34

by Robert Kurka

Robert Kurka’s Marimba Concerto was commissioned by the teacher of Leigh Howard Stevens, Vida Chenoweth, who recently died on December 14, 2018.  Chenoweth premiered the work almost exactly 60 years ago, on November 11, 1959 in Carnegie Hall.  It was the first time a performance for solo marimba had been heard on its stage.  The work was written for a “low-A” marimba with a range of 4-1/3 octaves.  This was the biggest marimba available at the time and had only been introduced to the world about ten years before.  Today, a 5-octave range is common, with the lowest note being the same as the lowest note on a cello.  Mr. Stevens, being a marimba designer as well as a marimba soloist, performs on an instrument of his own design and has transposed some of the notes of the marimba part down an octave, to take advantage of today’s 5-octave range.  Stevens is known for inventing a new way of holding 4 mallets (“the Stevens grip”), as well as the “one-handed roll,” and other expressive ways of sustaining the sound of the marimba. These techniques are now commonly used in marimba compositions and performance.  All these advances in technique have been incorporated into his interpretation of the solo part.  Stevens performs an original cadenza which he has composed with musical themes taken from the first movement.

 

Notes by the Publisher

Born of Czech parents on December 22, 1921 in Cicero, Illinois, Robert Kurka achieved a career of distinction, despite his short life.  Although largely self-taught, he studied composition briefly with two outstanding teachers, Otto Luening and Darius Milhaud.

 

Life Magazine honored Robert Kurka by including him in a list of nine composers selected for special notice; he was labelled “the tunesmith.”  He taught at the City College of New York, Queens College, and was composer-in-residence at Dartmouth College.  He received commissions from various musical organizations and was co-winner of the George Gershwin Memorial Award.  Finally, in the early 1950’s he received the most coveted of all honors, a grant from the National Institute of Arts and Letters, as well as a Guggenheim Fellowship award. 

 

Reporters for newspapers and magazines turned out in full force for the premiere, and wrote glowing accounts. Time Magazine wrote, “As for the piece itself, it proved to be tuneful, crisply rhythmic, shot through with jazz echoes and a spirit of jaunty sophistication.  It proved again that the composer Kurka had one of the most promising original talents in U.S. music.”  The New York Journal-American  wrote, “Kurka’s Concerto for Marimba saved the evening; with this piece the concert came alive:  syncopated music with lighthearted melodic writing.  This work is as native as the barn dance-full of spirit.”

 

Tragically, Kurka had died of leukemia nearly two years before:  December 12, 1957.  The world premiere of Kurka’s opera The Good Soldier Schweik also took place after the composer’s death; it was presented April 29, 1958, by the New York City Opera. 

Publisher: Weintraub Music Company

Duration: Approximately 20 minutes

Instrumentation:

2 Flutes (2nd Flute doubles Piccolo)

2 Oboes

2 Clarinets in Bb

2 Bassoons

2 Horns in F

2 Trumpets in C

2 Trombones (Tenor)

4 Timpani - Snare Drum

Strings

Marimba Concerto

by Kevin Puts

Marimba Concerto reflects my love of Mozart’s piano concertos, works with instrumentation similar to that of this concerto, i.e. a keyboard instrument with chamber orchestra. I decided to write a piece which is lyrical throughout and to feature the marimba in both melodic and ornamental roles. The influence of Mozart lies mainly in the relationship between the soloist and orchestra, one of near equality in which the marimba continually interacts with the instruments of the orchestra.

The work is comprised of three movements - fast, slow, fast - like a Mozart concerto, and each movement bears a subtitle taken from the poetry of my aunt, Fleda Brown. They are: I. “...terrific sun on the brink” (Flowing); II. “...into the quick of losses” (Broad and Deliberate); and III. “...logarithms, exponents, the damnedest of metaphors” (Presto non troppo). The overriding message is one of optimism and exuberance.

Marimba Concerto was commissioned by the Vermont Symphony and Ensemble Kobe (Japan) for marimbist Makoto Nakura, and it was premiered in October 1997 by Mr. Nakura and the Vermont Symphony with Kate Tamarkin conducting.

−Kevin Puts

Publisher: Aperto Press

Duration: 21 minutes

Instrumentation:

2 Flutes

2 Oboes

2 Clarinets in Bb

2 Bassoons

2 Horns in F

1 Trumpet

1 Xylophone

Strings