AMERICAN HORN QUARTET
KERRY TURNER: RICOCHET
AMERICAN HORN QUARTET
Saturday Brass Quintet
PROGRAM NOTESRICOCHET was commissioned in 1993 by the Freden International Chamber Music Festival in Germany. It was shortly before this commission Mr. Turner composed the first movement, Ricochet, at the request of David Ohanian, at the time the hornist with the Canadian Brass. For the commission, Turner expanded the work to three movements, originally entitled Rodeo, Repose and Ricochet. In the end, the two outer movements were reversed and combined with the middle movement, creating one piece. Ricochet belongs to a compositional period in which Turner exploited his Texan heritage. Other “Texan” works include the Quartet No.3, Kaitsenko and Ghost Riders.
FANDANGO was written in November 1996 for the American Horn Quartet. It was Turner’s goal to evoke a passionate Spanish dance in the tradition of Ravel’s La Valse, while at the same showcasing the particular virtuosity of the AHQ, which premiered the piece in Texas in 1996. Turner explains: “At the opening, we behold a red cloak lying on the ground, rippling in a gentle breeze. Suddenly, a magical wind blows over the cloak, causing it to rise and fall, eventually becoming a Spanish dancer. The Dancer is tall and proud, and clothed in spectacular Spanish garb. The listener imagines a toreador or flamenco dancer, and images of the tango. The dance reaches a climax as the fandango rhythm is pounded out in almost frenzied fashion. At the very end, the magic spell departs, and the cloak falls lifeless to the ground.”
THE LABYRINTH, commissioned by Susan Salminen and the Bethany Brass Ensemble at Bethany College in Kansas, was composed between October 1995 and January 1996. Turner’s conception of the piece came from a dream in which he saw himself as a traveler, standing before the gate of a giant labyrinth which contained countless corridors through which he had to pass. The traveler, gate and corridors - the maze itself – each have a unique theme and character all their own. Shortly after entering the maze, the traveler races through a sequence of corridors - some dead ends, some leading to others until, after a small surprise, he bursts into the open.
THE SEDUCTION, composed in March 1996, was originally intended to be the first movement of a larger work, but in creating the program for this CD, Turner thought it worked best as the middle movement of what has become a sort of trilogy: The Labyrinth, The Seduction and Quarter-After-Four. This period was a difficult one for the composer, and despite the creativity and originality of the works from that period, Turner designates them as being artistically void. Using haunting melodies, a wide spectrum of color, counterpoint and influences from his frequent travels to North Africa, The Seduction evokes the mental, spiritual and physical anguish of a personal battle between the spirit and the flesh. The Christian writer, Charles Swindoll, once wrote on this subject: “If you get yourself into a situation that leaves you defenseless and weak, if your door is left even slightly ajar, you may be sure that this ancient enemy will kick it open with six-guns blazing”.
QUARTER-AFTER-FOUR was written in September 1996 at the request of Attila Keresztesi. From the composer: “Every night around 4:15AM, I awaken. It is neither sudden, nor brought on by a dream. My mind is blank as I drift out of sleep. Then, the first haunting thought occurs, usually of some unresolved dilemma. I turn it over in my head and am reminded of something I said to someone, perhaps related to the dilemma. Regret comes over me as I relive the remark. Turning on my side, I toss off an insult to myself about my mistake. I am reminded of something I must do the next day, and that I won’t be able to, because of the dilemma. I turn to my other side, and other problems, each somehow related to the original, circle in my head. I toss and turn more turbulently, and throw off the covers in a sweat. I attempt to calm my mind, reciting the 23rd Psalm, or Niebuhr’s prayer: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change…” Sometimes, a solution comes into focus through the confusion of prayers and bewilderment, but it too becomes entangled in the grand dilemma, which remains unsolved. The storm that haunts me every night has numbed my mind, and I drift off as quietly as I awoke.
HORN QUARTET NO.4 Composers like Brahms and neo-classicists like Hindemith often described their work as “music for music’s sake”, which is what the Quartet No.4 is all about. Having no story or picture, neither poem nor program, each movement has a simple theme which is developed, always but loosely derived from the principal. This works spans the technical and emotional elements of Turner’s compositional craft, and indeed the horn quartet itself.
THE POCONO MENAGERIE was written in October 1994. The composer writes: “The Pocono Mountains have always been a source of creative inspiration for me. The basic concepts of many works germinated there during quiet weeks on vacation. One of the most striking things about the Poconos is the abundance of wildlife. Within 24 hours of a stay there, one encounters deer, turkeys, squirrels, raccoons and - with any “luck” - bears. While composing this work, I stood in the woods and took walks down to a pond, dreaming up each episode while watching the animals move about and carry on with their business. The serene Prologue sets the mood of the piece. The melody, which is heard in various forms throughout, and a thoroughly American harmony are established.
Episode 1: A Deer in the Shimmering Forest. This variation featuring the horn is based on several of my own sightings. The picture portrayed is the incredible transparency of a deer standing still in the woods, the leaves of which rustle in the wind, and the surprise one experiences when one of them suddenly leaps out onto the road. They seem so vulnerable, almost naked, out in the open.
Episode 2: A Bear Emerges from the Forest and Crosses the Road. I was speaking on the telephone, gazing into the forest, when a large brown bear suddenly emerged and galloped across the driveway. After spotting me, he ran with all his might down the driveway, across the road, and back into the safety of the woods.
Episode 3: The Lake at Dawn and Visiting Snakes. Every morning, I walked down to the pond and gazed upon its stillness. The water had a stark contrast to the earthiness of the woods as it rippled gently in the wind, almost spiritually. In this pond, there lived quite a number of water snakes. Very often, while looking out on the water, ones eyes fell on the sight of little black heads, slithering across the surface.
Episode 4 and Finale: An Eagle Soars. The sight of an Eagle emerging from the crest of a mountain and soaring over a valley is a magnificent spectacle! When it was decided this work would be comprised of four episodes, each featuring a solo instrument, I immediately associated the heroic flight of the Eagle with a soaring trumpet melody. At the end of the episode, the main theme of The Pocono Menagerie is stated again, this time in the character of the Eagle’s flight.
A native of Texas, KERRY TURNER has been writing music since he was ten years old. At the age of 11, he won the San Antonio Music Society Composition Competition and six years later was awarded Baylor University’s first prize at its composition contest with a large scholarship to that institution. Composition, however, was not Kerry’s passion at this time. He was also an accomplished horn player and chose to concentrate his studies there instead. He transferred to the Manhattan School in New York in 1980 where he began his intensive horn studies. After graduation, he was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to study with world-renowned horn soloist, Hermann Baumann, who was teaching at the Stuttgart College of Performing Arts.
In 1985, Turner joined the American Horn Quartet, and decided to compose for the ensemble. The horn quartet repertoire at the time was rather small and unchallenging to modern players. With this in mind, Kerry composed the Quartet No.1, which subsequently won first prize in the International Horn Society’s (IHS) composition contest. Other successful works for horn quartet followed, such as tone-poem The Casbah of Tetouan, his second quartet subtitled Americana, and the Quartet No.3, which was also awarded a prize by the IHS in 1996.
Mr. Turner was by this time receiving commissions for horn repertoire in different chamber ensemble combinations. His dramatic Six Lives of Jack McBride was a commission by Charles Putnam and the IHS Meir Rimon Foundation, and later the Freden International Music Festival commissioned him to compose a brass quintet, Ricochet, which has since become one of Turner’s signature works. He has also been commissioned by the U.S. Air Force “Heritage of America” Band, Alexander Horn Ensemble of Japan, Brass Ensemble of the Symphony Orchestra of Lyon, and many more.
Turner’s music contains elements of folk music from the British Isles, an inherent Mexican influence combined with his own western-American style, and exotic sounds of North Africa and the Arab world.
Mr. Turner has been a guest lecturer in composition at several notable institutions, such as the Royal Academy of Oslo, Academy of Fine Arts in Hong Kong, Nero House of Music in Japan, West Virginia State University and the Winterthur Hochschule in Switzerland. His works have been heard in major concert halls around the globe and have been recorded extensively not only by the AHQ, but by soloists and chamber musicians worldwide. His work has been performed and recorded by chamber ensembles from the New York Philharmonic, Berlin Philharmonic, Vienna Philharmonic and Chicago Symphony, among many others.
All works published by Phoenix Music Publications except The Labyrinth,
published by Solid Wood Publishing (www.solidwoodmusic.com).