American Nomad – Steve Heitzeg

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Product Type: Digital Download

Format: Full Score

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Composer: Steve Heitzeg

Instrumentation: 2-2-2-2/4-3-3-1/timp, 3perc/strings

Duration: Approx. 25 minutes

Date Written: 2019 (and 2022)

Premiered by: Minnesota Orchestra; Charles Lazarus, trumpet; Mischa Santora, conductor; Orchestra Hall, Minneapolis, MN on 04/30/2019

Commissioned: Paul Grangaard

Additional Information: American Nomad, a new trumpet concerto by composer Steve Heitzeg, received its world premiere by Charles Lazarus, trumpet, with Mischa Santora conducting the Minnesota Orchestra, on Thursday, April 30, and Friday, May 1, 2015 at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis. The 22-minute concerto—described by the composer as a “sonic meditation across the nation”—evokes distinct American landscapes, incorporates jazz improvisation into the concerto format and showcases percussion instruments including an iron armature bar from the Statue of Liberty, New York subway spikes and fallen branches from a Joshua tree.

“I wanted to create a series of soundscapes across America, moving from Manhattan to the Great Plains to the High Desert, Joshua Tree National Park, and the Pacific,” said Heitzeg. “The soloist becomes a sort of troubadour, reporting to us sonically about his travels, the people and the land. The word ‘nomad’ resonated with me because we are all travelers on this beautiful planet.”

The work—which was commissioned by Minnesota Orchestra Board Member Paul Grangaard—was written in close collaboration with Charles Lazarus, a member of the Minnesota Orchestra as well as a gifted jazz musician. “Chuck’s hope was to premiere a concerto that would organically merge jazz and classical elements, and I wanted to write a piece that would showcase his versatility,” said Heitzeg.

The resulting work unfolds in three movements. The first is Avenue of the Americas (for those who are without a home), an exploration around immigration: what is your avenue to America? Percussionists in this movement play New York City subway spikes and an original iron armature bar from the Statue of Liberty—as a riff on Gershwin’s An American in Paris in which percussionists play Parisian taxi horns. (The armature bar from the Statue of Liberty was removed during the restoration of the Statue in 1984 and is on loan from the Statue of Liberty Ellis Island Ambassadors.)

The second movement, Little Hymn to the Fields, is an elegy for solo trumpet and strings, paying tribute to the beauty of wild and farm fields and honoring those who have toiled or lost their lives in other fields across America. The final movement, Trip (Where the Chords Have No Name), includes passages in which the Orchestra plays undertones evoking the moody vibe of the High Desert while the trumpet soloist improvises.

“There are very few classical trumpet concertos that incorporate jazz improvisation as an integral part of the work,” says Charles Lazarus. “American Nomad melds cool jazz and a contemporary cinematic flair. I hear it as a hipster’s coast to coast journey that captures elements of many American musical styles.”

Heitzeg and Lazarus have been involved in previous collaborations. In 2004, Lazarus performed the solo trumpet part in Heitzeg’s Nobel Symphony performed by Philip Brunelle and VocalEssence. Those performances subsequently led to Lazarus recording the trumpet fanfares from that work on his debut solo album, Solo Settings.

The April 30-May 1 Minnesota Orchestra performances also include Bernstein’s Divertimento, Copland’s Clarinet Concerto (with Burt Hara) and Greenstein’s Acadia.

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