FOUR TWO-BIT CONTRAPTIONS for flute and horn
Program notes by the composer 1/14/88
These little duets were written during one of the winter months of early 1964, while the composer was defending his country with his trusty French horn in the U. S. Army Band, Washington. D. C. They were intended as a birthday gift for a former horn student of his, then a sophomore co-ed at the University of Michigan, whose roommate played the flute (the hornist was Nancy Booth Stringer, who later collaborated with the composer in writing the poems used in his Three Choral Dances; the flutist was Mary Delano Sholkovitz, an eventual member of the Edinburgh Symphony). The work's title, which generated the work's content, is an obvious satirical jibe at another composing Bach, now decomposing, and his Two-Part Inventions for keyboard. The intention was to write music specifically designed for the duet combination in such a way that the two parts seemed complete by themselves (a later version, for woodwind quintet, was not nearly so successful in performance and has been withdrawn).
Strange to say, the two performers for whom the work was originally written never performed it. The work's first public performance was given by two outstanding high school performers during a young people's concert presented by the St. Petersburg (Florida) Symphony at the Bayfront Auditorium in that city in early 1966. It was scheduled by conductor Thomas Briccetti as an encore to a performance of the Titl Serenade for flute, horn, and string orchestra during that concert. The work's 1970 publication by Media Press is in large part responsible for its world-wide distribution and notoriety; to the composer's eternal embarrassment, it remains his most frequently performed composition. It is particularly popular at the April Fool's Day concerts that are becoming increasingly popular in this country, but it has also been performed in such distant countries as Sweden, England, and Germany with equally successful results. In August, 1987, it was performed in St. Louis for nearly two thousand flautists attending the National Flute Association convention. It has been recorded on CD by members of the Pennsylvania Quintet and, most recently, by members of the Chicago Philharmonic. It was also recorded earlier on the Crystal Records LP "Is This The Way To Carnegie Hall?" The work was released in a new edition by Galaxy Music Corporation in early 1989.
The work’s four movements are Second Lieutenant, Calliope, Gramophone, and Pinwheel. The two performers are encouraged to announce the title of each movement before they play it.