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concerto for percussion trio

Interview Questions
asked by percussionist Brian Zator and answered by composer Russell Peck

1. What types of major aspects are different in the wind version that you changed from the popular orchestral version?

The solo percussion parts for The Glory and the Grandeur are identical for both versions. Rather than harp I decided to use piano for greater versatility. The piano does not in any way play the former string parts, because of the lack of sustaining quality. Rather the piano has a chance to be its own instrument. Another instrument group that I loved using are the saxophones, which are naturally great for some of the funky moments that this piece definitely has, but also to help supply some of the "velvet" sound that the strings supply in the orchestra.

2. What would you want the audience to be listening/watching for during the performance?

For one, the stage setup was planned to create a kind of geographical aspect to the piece, with percussion sound bouncing back-and-forth, spinning around in space, and in general coming from different locations. This spatial aspect is part of the composition's formal structure, which may be perceived by an astute listener.

The link into the music itself is the number three, which is particularly emphasized not only by three players, but three pitch levels of drum sound, and a three-note broken triad motif which is very prominent.

3. What was your inspiration for writing this work?

I could say it was sunsets or some concept that inspired me, but actually it was the chance to fit my composing into a medium that I thought would serve it uniquely well, which is percussion accompanied by large ensemble. I was commissioned to write an orchestral piece and I told the conductor that I had always wanted to write a percussion concerto. He said okay. So literally the inspiration was being able to do what I wanted - write a concerto for multiple percussion. I couldn't wait to hear it, and I feel the same about this version with wind symphony. This version was inspired by the many requests I received from people who wanted to use the work with winds, and even offered to do arrangements. Because I think my use of instruments is a major part of what defines my style, I became eager to do a version myself.

4. Who did you write the original orchestral version for?

It was commissioned for the Greensboro Symphony Orchestra, Paul McRae, Music Director, with Percussion Group Cincinnati as soloists.

5. How does it feel to have your work premiered on a PASIC showcase concert performed by the UNT Wind Symphony?

This is really ideal for my work at this time, and I feel honored by the opportunity. Percussion has been very good to me as a composer. Lift-Off is a popular repertoire piece; my Timpani Concerto Harmonic Rhythm was commissioned by the largest consortium including major orchestras in history; and The Glory and the Grandeur has been a tremendous success since it premiered with orchestra. Yet, I've never been to a PASIC Convention. So this is a big moment for me, and I hope to meet quite a few people who know my music. All the more so because the UNT Wind Symphony is giving me the chance to have my new Glory and the Grandeur for percussion trio and wind symphony performed there. The UNT Wind Symphony and conductor Eugene Corporon have such a tremendous reputation - plus, of course the famous soloists - that I think this is literally the best possible showcase I could have.

July 2006


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