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String Ensembles (includes string duos)BALLAD AND EPILOGUE for string trio (violin, viola & cello) by Roman Placzek is a heartfelt tribute to Walter Ford Carter and the memory of his father, Dr. Elmer Norval Carter, whose story is immortalized in Walter’s book No Greater Sacrifice, No Greater Love published by Smithsonian Books. “I composed the piece while living with my host family, Mr. & Mrs. Walter Carter in Newton, MA. Walter’s mother died during that time and I learned that he grew up without a father. Walter’s father, died a hero during the invasion of Normandy gunned down by a sniper while attending a wounded soldier. Walter’s mother never spoke of her husband again. One day I saw an open diary Walter’s father kept during those days and I realized that among the last words he wrote in his life were thoughts of love for his two sons, and he specifically mentioned Walter. Ballad depicts Walter’s life growing up and rearing his children while never knowing his father. Epilogue portrays the rediscovery of his parent when, after the death of his mother, Walter found his father’s letters and a diary she was hiding from him until her death. The role of each instrument is vital to me. All 3 voices play an equally important role, taking their leading parts as the story unfolds. Being a professional cellist with profound knowledge of string playing and all bowed string instruments..” – Roman Placzek (11’22”) Grade IV-V. The entire work can be heard on YouTube
DANCE OF THE WITCHES for string quartet by Roman Placzek is a fun and exciting fantasy work. The composer states, “It’s an incidental, program piece. Four witches are waking up in their den after a night of whatever witches do that makes them so vile and evil, heads hurting, all messed up, and hung over. Slowly but surely they get ready for their day, start dancing and brewing and drinking their poisons getting more and more wild but also more in sync with each others rhythms. At the end the confusion and drunkenness, disorder and chaos kicks in again. The last two measures represent a sudden outside disturbance and them flying away in a hurry. The end.” Score and parts are included. (4’45”) Grade IV-V.
FABLES FROM AESOP (2001)by Howard J. Buss, in 5 entertaining movements: The Dog Who Chased a Lion, The Astronomer, The Camel Who Wanted Horns, The Crow and the Pitcher, and The Rabbits and the Frogs. Each movement begins with a performer reciting the corresponding fable. The colorful, engaging music is idiomatic and sophisticated, yet it is accessible because of its strong programmatic nature. This piece is a hit with all types of audiences, including those comprised of children! It makes a great concert feature and also is highly effective on out-reach concerts in the schools. Buss employs a variety of meters, tonalities, and an equality of parts to set this duet apart from other instrumental duos of mixed descent. This is a captivating achievement of great variety and craftsmanship. - reviewed by Joel Elias in the July 2005 International Trombone Association Journal, Vol. 33, No. 3 (13) Grade V.
Fables from Aesop for violin and cello score samples: Movement 1.pdf; Movement 2.pdf;
Movement 3.pdf; Movement 4.pdf; Movement 5.pdf
THE HEAVENS AWAKEN (2008) for solo bassoon & string quartet by Howard J. Buss is dedicated to bassoonist Arnold Irchai. The structure of this exciting work is highly symbolic in that it was inspired by the details of the visions of the priest Ezekiel while living with the Jewish exiles in Babylon. Ezekiel saw a powerful, glowing, and complex entity appear in the sky out of a “great cloud.” He believed it to be an appearance of God: “Also out of the midst thereof came the likeness of 4 living creatures. And this was their appearance; they had the likeness of a man.” (Ezekiel 1:5 KJV) The formal scheme of The Heavens Awaken is programmatic in the sense that the sequence of events described in the vision is musically represented in a general way. The serene opening gradually becomes mysterious and gives way to a series of passages that serve as an ominous portent to the arrival of the airborne object. The 4 string instruments, each with 4 strings, 4 tuning pegs, and human-like body shape symbolize the 4 “creatures” of the vision. The bassoon represents the “voice” of what Ezekiel believes is God. It should be noted that many people also have interpreted his vision as a sighting of a UFO, described with the insights and vocabulary of the day. “This significant work is a “must for the advanced bassoonist!” (12’30”) Grade V.
Sound samples: Excerpt 1.mp3; Excerpt 2.mp3; Exerpt 3.mp3
MILLENNIUM VISIONS (1999) for clarinet & string quartet by Howard J. Buss in 3 captivating movements: First Dawn, Meditation, and Quest, was composed in the latter months of 1999 when most of the world was looking forward with eager anticipation to the turn of the Century, and in many minds, the Millennium. The conflict between mans desire to progress in our technological age and his desire to connect to his spiritual past is symbolically represented by an array of musical styles and compositional procedures. The modern world is suggested by passages influenced by popular music styles and 12-tone technique. The longing for spirituality is manifested in the poignant lyricism of the work and its reliance on classical formal structures. Commissioned by ClarinetFest 2000, premiered by Tom Martin (Boston Symphony). (20) Grade V.
Sound samples: Sample 1.mp3; Sample 2.mp3; Sample 3.mp3
SINFONIETTA (1990) for string quintet (2-1-1-1) or string orchestra by Howard J. Buss was commissioned by the Imperial Symphony Orchestra to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the American Music Center, the official United States information center for music. This colorful composition was premiered by the Imperial Symphony Orchestra on April 23, 1991 in Lakeland, Florida.Sinfonietta commences with a beautiful, mystical introduction that is somewhat transparent in nature. Haunting melodies for the solo viola and violin are superimposed over the sustained sonorities of the ensemble creating a deeply reflective mood. The music gradually becomes agitated and builds in intensity as the introduction gives way to a sequence of passages of varying length and character: A fanfare-like transition followed by an energetic segment characterized by driving rhythms and changing meters leads to a section featuring buoyant melodies where, through the fast-moving surface elegance, runs an undercurrent of tension. The composition concludes in a spirit of triumphant proclamation.
Sound Samples: Excerpt 1.mp3; Excerpt 2.mp3 (630) Grade V.
TETE-A-TETE (2014) for violin and viola duo by Roger C. Vogel, in 5 movements: Beginnings, Hommages, Conversations, Eulogy, and Dance. This significant concert work was written for Maggie Snyder and Michael Heald and premiered by them in February, 2014. The term “tête-à-tête” refers to a conversation between two persons, and these charming pieces represent 5 different moods, or topics that might be discussed. (17’30)
YouTube videos (live performance) Movement 1; Movement 2; Movement 3; Movement 4; Movement 5
TIME CAPSULE (2002) by Howard Buss is an sonatina in four movements: Daybreak, Chorale, Rendezvous, and Homeward Bound and is both fun to play and listen to. The first movement has a frolicking and optimistic character. Chorale breaks with the traditional structure of the chorale in that each phrase gets a measure longer. The harmonies of the second movement contain some spicy dissonances as well. Rendezvous, is in a lilting 6/8 and really "works up a lather" as it progresses to an exciting climax. The final movement, Homeward Bound, begins with a fanfare-like passage that gives way to a spirited dance characterized by an intriguing interplay between the two instruments. (7) Grade IV.
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String Music Index:
(Click on an instrumentation link, works are listed in alphabetical order within each category.)
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