Songs and Caprices

Hugh Aitken

Publisher: Elkan-Vogel, Inc.
Print Status: Rental

Quick Overview

As I sat down to write these notes I realized that I really preferred not to write any at all. If the heard piece doesn't tell the listeners all they need to know, it seems to me this is the fault of the music. Have we not all been bored by pointless description such as, The staccato flute melody is followed by the sudden emergence of trombones and timpani or labored through dense paragraphs which might be appropriate in a text on musical analysis but from which the gentle music lover should be spared? Of course, to have notes to read during an unengaging piece might make the time seem to pass more quickly.

The following, however, might interest some of you. When the idea came to me of dividing the orchestra into two groups, the lower instruments on the conductor's left, the higher on his right, and using four percussionists with a lot of things to hit, my mind was flooded with ideas. There's nothing a composer likes more than that. Many of these ideas seemed capricious. Well, why not? Intersperse three songs amongst the lively movements, let some of the caprices be as short as they seemed to want to be, and there you have it.

The name Gerard Schwarz brings music to mind in more ways than one. Making use of the fact that in German Es = Eb and H=B, his name gives us the following notes: G, E, A, D, Eb, C, B, A. I?ve used this series before, in the Symphony that I wrote for his Seattle orchestra and which they premiered in 1999. In the current piece it appears in a number of guises, but without any particular patterns or schemes. After all, a caprice should be loose, shouldn't it?

I met Schwarz in the early sixties when he was a trumpet major at Juilliard and I was teaching theory. The first piece of mine he was involved with was "Tromba", a quintet for trumpet and string quartet, which he played with the Concord Quartet and a few others before abandoning the horn for the stick. Available from ARTEK is a Seattle Symphony CD containing my "Aspen Concerto" for violin and strings with Elmar Oliveira as soloist, "Rameau Remembered" for flute and orchestra, featuring Scott Goff, and "In Praise of Ockeghem" for strings.

I am but one of many American composers who owe much to Jerry for the time and effort he has spent in championing new music. I am happy to present him and the splendid orchestra these pieces on the occaision of their 25th anniversary.

Available on Rental

Additional Information

Composition Date 2001
Duration 00:20:00
Orchestration 2(dbl. 2Picc.) 1 2(Eb Cl./ A Cl./ B.Cl.) 0(E.H.) 2 - 2 2 0 0; Timp. 3Perc. Str.
Premiere November 3 and 4, 2001 Alice Tully Hal New York , New York Performed by the New York Chamber Symphony, Gerard Schwarz conductor.


I. Vigorous
II. Lively
III. Song
IV. Nervous, aggressive
V. Song
VI. Hearty
VII. Fast and abrupt
VIII. Partly vigorous, partly delicate
IX. Song
X. Vigorous