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Austrian-American Tales

Austrian-American Tales

Hoh, Christopher


  • Ensemble: Woodwind Quintet
  • Genre: Modern Classical
  • Grade: 4
  • Duration: 20.0 minutes
  • Catalog Number: AOS606

The composer writes...

            Austrian-American Tales is a woodwind quintet that reflects my experience living as an expatriate in Vienna, where it was written in 2012. The first movement, Tales from the Blue Vienna Woods, combines 18th century classical form with romantic Austro-German harmony. Viennas forested hills inspired composers, and I too enjoyed their proximity. Freuds city was also melancholy, what an American might call Blue, so these tunes are tinged with sadness and even homesickness. The A section comprises chords above a running line for the bassoon, which the other instruments draw on for their melodic turns. In the B section the horns repeated notes underpin duets, first clarinet and bassoon, then flute and oboe, finally all in a combination that gradually winds down. After the A section reprise the horn starts a coda that tosses licks among the players with increasing energy to close.
            The Misty Danube, movement two, portrays the great river at dawn, as daylight comes and fog eventually lifts. With rising sixths and plaintive phrases, it begins peaceful and slow, as the water seemed when walking its banks early. Then the pace picks up, as melody breaks out and the sun at last pokes through. These little duets (e.g. flute and clarinet, oboe and bassoon) are a nod to Mahler, who lived near the Danube canal. Meanwhile, the horn and bassoon accompany with a repeated, pulsing figure that I think of as waves. This music also contains some near-hidden quotations from an American popular song. After the opening theme returns, the piece ends quietly.
            Vienna is famous for its waltzes, so that form serves for the third movement, Alexanders Holding Your Hand. Although hes imaginary, I saw many students enjoying lovely parks, vibrant streets and timeless cafes and lots of older lovers too. So here we have dance music reminiscent of Josef Strauss, although tension and drama erupt at one point thanks to the horn. Soon, however, everyone forgets their problems and the instruments resume waltzing. Next comes an Interlude, with idiomatic writing for winds, relishing their trilling and agility. This atmospheric short movement juxtaposes fast motifs suited to Austrias lively international scene with lyrical episodes born of its splendid scenery.
            The final movement, Tales from the Ragtime Band, employs ragtime, a syncopated American genre. Its carefree spirit evidently prevailed at the turn of the last century, in both countries, before the cataclysm of WW I. Here melodies and phrases dominate, modulating through various tonal centers, in a headlong rush to the future. The titles of these movements are a mash-up of standards from Austria and the USA: Tales from the Vienna Woods, The Beautiful Blue Danube, Misty (Holding Your Hand), and Alexanders Ragtime Band. Although I joked around with these names, I trust I respected the musical culture of both countries as they worked out their influences on me. Despite invoking time-honored techniques, I tried to give this composition a 21st-Century perspective that is fresh to play and hear.

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