I first got to know Bill Purvis around 1983 when he was a member of Speculum Musicae and played in a piece I composed for them called Lalita. Ten years later Bill played in King Gesar, my “campfire opera” for narrator and chamber ensemble. We became friends during a very enjoyable rehearsal period, performance at Tanglewood, and subsequent recording session. When he asked me to compose a concerto for him I readily accepted. I loved the purity and warmth of his tone and greatly appreciated the musical intelligence that informed his playing.
I remember when I wrote my Piano Concerto that I had many auxiliary ideas to the music I wrote for piano. These ideas concern the orchestra, specific instrumental groupings, the relationship of tempos throughout the piece, and, most of all, the transformation of my melodic and harmonic world. When I wrote my Viola Concerto, I found that such concerns fell away as I composed more directly, because the viola is a singing instrument. So too with the Horn Concerto.
I think of the horn as an instrument of the heart. Every time I began to reason in a conceptual way the Concerto seemed bogged down and I would begin again in a more intuitive way. Finally, I got the message that the Horn Concerto would be composed of more spontaneous gestures and always with a focus on the horn itself.
The horn takes on different moods and characters in the concerto; often lyrical but sometimes very dramatic and feisty, sometimes energetic and athletic.