Houston Symphony

Hans Graf And Timothy McAllister On Adams, Mussorgsky, And The Saxophone

A conversation with Hans Graf and Timothy McAllister about their upcoming concert with the Houston Symphony.

(L-R): Joshua Zinn with Hans Graf and Timothy McAllister
(L-R): Joshua Zinn with Hans Graf and Timothy McAllister

“He’s writing for himself, he’s writing for his interpreters… he’s writing for the orchestra, and every orchestra finds it interesting to play Adams… that’s a very high level of achievement as a composer,” says former Houston Symphony Music Director Hans Graf about John Adams. Graf will be leading the orchestra in concerts this weekend featuring Adams’ Saxophone Concerto with guest soloist Timothy McAllister.

McAllister continues with Graf’s line by saying, “I feel that his music brings out the best in players, because they feel challenged to honor it… to bring it justice…” As for the piece itself, which the composer wrote for McAllister, he notes that Adams strives to evoke the personality and style of the soloist in the music for works like this: “I think this piece gets at a bit of my identity and the types of things I do as a player.”

Also on the concert are Igor Stravinsky’s Symphonies of Wind Instruments and Maurice Ravel’s famous orchestration of Pictures at an Exhibition, originally by Modest Mussorgsky. To Graf, the popularity of this work lies in its distinctly Russian identity: “I think Mussorgsky, to our time, is the greatest Russian talent in music, and they all knew it.” And Ravel’s input is a straightforward interpretation that maintains the original composer’s identity.

Hear my conversation with Graf and McAllister above, and you can catch these performances tonight (February 23rd) and Saturday (February 25th) night at 8:00 with a final outing on Sunday (February 26th) at 2:30 PM. Go to the Houston Symphony website for more information. You can also hear more about Pictures at an Exhibition from the symphony’s podcast, On the Music.

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