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Speaking of Karel Husa‘s Trumpet Concerto . . . .

On February 11, 1988, Sir Georg Solti led the world premiere of Husa’s Trumpet Concerto. Adolph “Bud” Herseth—celebrating his fortieth season as the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s principal trumpet—was the soloist. The work was commissioned for the CSO, Herseth, and Solti, as part of a then-ongoing series of major compositions made possible by the Edward F. Schmidt Family Foundation Endowment Fund.

According to Phillip Huscher‘s program note: “Characteristically, Husa works within the framework of tradition. His orchestra in this concerto is virtually the classical symphony orchestra—pairs of winds, trumpets, and horns, with strings, timpani, harp, and an expanded percussion section. Significant is both the absence of the lower brass and the presence, in a trumpet concerto, of the two orchestral trumpets as well—and Husa makes magical use of them near then end.”

The composer was interviewed for feature articles in the CSO’s program book and the Chicago Tribune, in which he described his goal: “The main idea was to write a piece in which the solo trumpet would sound both virtuosic and, in the slow movement, sensitive and lyrical. I tried to explore all facets of trumpet playing, including a fiendish cadenza at the end. Mr. Herseth made several suggestions while I was writing the piece, advice I was pleased to accept from a musician as experienced as he.” Herseth was also the subject of a feature article in the Tribune. 

In the Chicago Sun-Times, Robert Marsh raved: “[Husa’s] concerto is fresh, completely ingenious, and precisely the sort of piece to present Herseth, Solti, and the CSO at the top of their form. It was written to be accessible and enjoyable, and there is no question that it meets these requirements fully without being anything less than a serious exploration of the instrument.”

And in the Chicago Tribune, John von Rhein wrote: “one must respect Husa’s canny craftsmanship, expertly judged scoring, and idiomatic writing for the soloist. The concerto is a worthwhile addition to the slim literature of 20th-century trumpet concertos; many a trumpet player will wish to add to his repertory. Few, however, are likely to play it more vividly or with more golden tone than Herseth. He was remarkable.” The complete reviews are here and here.

Composer, soloist, and conductor backstage, following the premiere.

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