My Horn Trio was commissioned by and dedicated to the American horn virtuoso, William Purvis for premiere at the "Danish Wave" events taking place in New York City in fall of 1999. The quite unusual combination of the French horn plus violin and piano is predominantly associated with the trio that Johannes Brahms wrote in 1865, and more recently with György Ligeti's Horn Trio (Hommage à Brahms) from 1982.
Homage to Brahms? I guess any horn trio is a "hats-off" to old Johannes, whether the composer has intended it or not. And what a combination! It is amazing the difference it makes having the French horn as primus inter pares, instead of the far more commonly used trio-partner, the cello; it is quite simply a matter of colouring. The "golden" voice of the horn pushes the composer's imagination toward unexpected areas of the compositional map; at least that is the strong feeling I had when I set out to compose my trio.
The titles of the four movements represent in themselves the form and shape of the piece:
1. Alpha - the beginning
2. Diadema - the jewel
3. Dilemma - the turning point
4. Omega - the end, and the beginning
A broad, moderately paced first movement leads to a sparkling scherzo, which in turn gives way to an extremely sparsely textured movement that features the horn and its less frequently used techniques, such as quarter tones and bent notes - so-called portamento. The whole piece turns on this movement: a couple of crisp piano arpeggios act as a premature, cinematic transition into the big finale, the longest and the technically most demanding movement of the piece. And then it ends - and starts over again, for the soft Coda is what remains of the first movement, thus creating a huge arch form.
- Poul Ruders, 1999