Fort Worth — When you ask someone to name their favorite living classical music composer, you’ll probably hear the name John Corigliano. You can find out why he is so revered when Texas Christian University presents a week long festival of his music. The composer will be in attendance.
The festivities begin on Monday evening in Fort Worth’s Bass Hall with one of the biggest pieces in the repertoire, at least as far as musicians involved to make it happen. Corigliano’s Circus Maximus is his Symphony No. 3 and uses a large wind ensemble on the stage and another “surround” wind band in the hall. Eleven trumpets are in the balconies and a marching band is in the back of the hall. To top it off, it also uses a 12-gauge shotgun to be fired at the end of this massive work.
The work received its world premiere in Bass Concert Hall in Austin in 2004 with Jerry Junkin conducting. Junkin is the music director of the Dallas Winds but at the time he was at the University of Texas Wind Ensemble at Austin. Dallas Winds also played the work in a recent season.
“Interest in writing for band or wind ensemble continues to grow among composers,” Corigliano says. “What is great is that they rehearse. A new work for orchestra will only rehearse for just a few days. Bands work for weeks on a new piece.”
In a master class at Southern Methodist University a few years ago, world-renowned composer William Bolcom said much the same thing. He recommended that composers write for bands in their new works and revisit their symphonic ones.
As a result of this universal advice, many composers are going back and arranging some of their orchestral works for wind ensemble. There are also some very fine bandistrators that make arrangements of classic orchestral works. Recently, The Dallas Winds played Zolton Kodáy’s Háry János Suite, in a brilliant arrangement for wind band by Jacco Nefs.
Part of Corigliano’s general public renown (as oppose to concertgoers) is his Academy Award for The Best Original Score for the 1998 film The Red Violin. The devilishly difficult violin part was played by Joshua Bell and, in 2003, Corigliano turned parts of it into a violin concerto.
But that massive concert is just the start of Corigliano’s residence at TCU. His main duties are as a part of their Third Annual Festival of American Song.
“TCU contacted wanted me to come down for some master classes on my songs, so we added two concerts on each side of the song concerts,” Corigliano says.
“They picked songs to match the available singers,” Corigliano says. “Pianist Shields-Collins Bray will be the collaborative pianist and some of the piano parts are ferocious.”
The Master class is on Tuesday afternoon, with the concert at 7 p.m. Wednesday’s concert is 3 p.m.; both are in PepsiCo Recital Hall.
On Thursday, the TCU Symphony Orchestra will play some of the composer’s orchestral works in TCU’s Ed Landreth Hall.
One of the selections is his popular Promenade Overture. It is like Haydn’s “Farewell” symphony, in which the players leave then stage one after another until all that remains are two violinists, but with a twist. In the overture, Corigliano reverses that format. In his overture, players arrive, playing their part, one at a time until the full orchestra is onstage.
Talk about an entrance.
See a complete schedule of events for TCU's Corigliano's residency here.