Open Circle

(2018) 20' / for brass quintet

Open Circle was commissioned by the Stockholm Chamber Brass in celebration of their 30th anniversary and premiered by them on the 7th of October, 2018 in the Konserthuset, Stockholm, Sweden. The performers were Urban Agnas and Tom Poulson, trumpets, Annamia Larsson, horn, Jonas Bylund, trombone, and Sami Al Fakir, tuba.

C Trumpet 1 with Wawa mute
C Trumpet 2 also Bb Piccolo Trumpet with Wawa mute for C Trumpet
Horn in F
Trombone with Cup and Straight mutes
Tuba or Bass Trombone with Straight mute

Composer's note

In celebration of their 30-year ensemble anniversary, the Swedish brass quintet Stockholm Chamber Brass asked me to write a work for them. They gave me no limitations, no stipulations, and didn't seem to have any expectations of the composition other than that it be worth the effort they would put into performing it. I was honored by the proposition, and it was quickly evident to me that my composition for such a jubilee could go either of two ways: I could write a party piece, something fun, short, and sweet, or I could write something intricate and challenging, a musical endeavor that taps into their tremendous chamber music artistry. Out of respect for the idealism, stamina, optimism, and enthusiasm, each member must channel to an ensemble, I decided to write a demanding piece of 20-some minutes. The decision was easy. Figuring out what to call the piece was not. Before the title Open Circlecrystallized, I thought to call it What it takes, because this group obviously has what it takes to keep the ensemble ideal alive for 30 years. Then I thought to call it !, because, in a performance, a brass player needs to be an exclamation point and not a question mark – a geeky insider theme that the trombonist of the quintet, Jonas Bylund, and I spoke about in the summer when I was composing the piece. The composition, however, is a sort of portrait of Stockholm Chamber Brass, and at the same time a depiction of the roles that the musicians play within the ensemble. Punctuated with ensemble passages, each player takes the stage for a solo, supported by the rest of the group. Uncharacteristically for me, but out of personal affinity for ensemble, I have given many of these soli and interludes descriptive captions such as "decisive, yet flexible“, "... with patience...", "brilliant, but modest“, "warm, but mighty", or "impassioned, yet reasonable". Being a brass player myself, I could almost feel the player producing the sounds I was writing down. Furthermore, I found myself inside the ensemble and could reflect on what it means to communicate in a chamber music setting. The musicians huddle together, they discuss, they empathize, they compromise, and they get „on the same page“– all this mostly through nonverbal means. A well-functioning chamber music group can be a small version of a social idyll, self-contained and balanced, like a circle. Yet the musicians do all of this, not for themselves, of course, but for the audience, opening the circle to include you, the listener; therefore the title, Open Circle.– Mike Svoboda, January 2019

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