The album Openers features a collection of overtures and tone poems written by Glenn Stallcop over the last forty years. Stallcop, who retired in 2019 after forty-six years as a double bassist with the Phoenix Symphony, wrote three of these works for the Phoenix Symphony. Two of the remaining works were commissioned for youth symphonies in Arizona, and one of the works is new. The Phoenix Symphony has also performed two of his feature length works, Millennial Opening, and City Music (twice), and three of his works featuring string orchestra.
Stallcop, whose orchestral music has covered a lot of ground stylistically over his career, tends to think of his music as post-modern yet performer-centric. He considers the performance experience as paramount, and is intent on creating music that is fun and moving to perform.
Also represented in his compositions is his experience of what amounts to a parallel career as an improvisational pianist. Music from his many albums of solo piano improvisation has found its way into his orchestral compositions, especially his later works. He often uses a transcribed piano improvisation as an initial sketch for his written compositions. This technique was used in two of the latter pieces, Five Bells and Aperitif, but is also used (for the first time) in one of the earlier pieces, Couplet for a Desert Summer.
As the album title suggests, all the works here are meant to be the first piece on an orchestral program. Calypso Round, In Apprehension of Spring, and Sunscape are traditional overtures. Aperitif and Five Bells are opening tone poems such as R. Strauss’s Don Juan or Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet. Couplet for a Desert Summer is a fifteen-minute two-movement work that could possibly occupy a different place on a program, but works nicely as a concert opener.
Calypso Round. This driving Latin-tinged eight-minute tour de force hints at minimalism while displaying nearly continuous canonic writing. Originally a mixed quintet for flute, horn, marimba, harp, and double bass written in 1980, it was orchestrated for large orchestra in 2000 for a performance by the Phoenix Symphony, conducted by Robert Moody. [Full article]
Aperitif. This is an, as yet, unperformed ten-minute tone poem for chamber orchestra written in the summer of 2019. It is meant to describe in reunion of old friends for dinner and displays their personalities and interactions. The work also features prominent parts for piano, harp, and marimba. [Full article]
Five Bells. This is a tone poem commissioned by the Arizona Band and Orchestra Teachers Association for the 2010 Arizona All-State Orchestra. It was performed in the spring of 2011 with John Roscigno conducting. It is a musical impression of a haunting elegiac poem of the same name by the Australian poet, Kenneth Slessor. The work is dramatic and features somewhat a ironic reference to R. Strauss’s Death and Transfiguration in the coda. [Full article]
Couplet for a Desert Summer. This is a fifteen-minute two-movement work depicting the two most active times of the day in the desert, dawn and dusk. The work, which was written from 1980-82, is scored for a Classical-era type chamber orchestra plus the addition of metal percussion and piano. The work features characteristic solo wind writing and a prominent piano part. A somewhat fragmented opening to Dawn settles into a long spirited section, a lengthy flute solo ushers in a section representing the rising sun. The movement closes with the mirages beginning to appear as the heat intensifies. Dusk opens with a call in the piano and passed throughout the orchestra. A piano solo ushers the sun to the horizon as the desert becomes alive. The music turns reverent as sunset colors flood the sky, and the music builds as the sky is set ablaze. As the light fades, the music becomes tired and goes to sleep. The works was first performed in Feb. 1984 by the Phoenix Symphony, Clark Suttle, conducting. [Full article]
In Apprehension of Spring. This is an overture commissioned by the Metropolitan Youth Symphony (Mesa, AZ) in 1985 and performed later that year with Wayne Roederer conducting. The work was written for an orchestra entirely under the age of 15, and is written not only for them, but also about them. It is a four-minute pedal-to-the-metal romp. [Full article]
Sunscape. Commissioned by the Arizona Diamond Jubilee Commission for the seventy-fifth anniversary of Arizona’s Statehood, this work was first performed in Nov. 1987 by the Phoenix Symphony with Harold Weller conducting. The work is a celebration of the majestic grandeur of the Grand Canyon State, its dramatic topography and silk-screen horizons. The varied landforms and ecosystems are all dominated by a solar presence that is essential to its character. Sweeping lines and multiple contrapuntal levels blend together to create a eleven-minute flyby of spectacular scenery. [Full article]
All music is published by American Composers Alliance (BMI) and realized through the use of the software NotePerformer.