Serenade for trumpet, English horn and strings
Gary Hayes: Born in Hamilton, Ontario, December 14, 1948; now living in Ottawa
Gary Hayes, long a prominent fixture on Ottawa’s music scene, wrote his Serenade in 1984 and heard it premiered on January 23, 1985 by the NAC Orchestra, which had commissioned it. Bramwell Tovey conducted. The composer wrote at the time:
“The Serenade for English horn, trumpet and strings was the subject of considerable discussion between the composer and the NAC’s Costa Pilavachi [Director of the Music Department]. The result is a work which consciously approaches the traditional serenade, of which there exist a frightening number of good examples and ideals, but which approaches this form on its own terms.
“The solo instruments are more central to all of the four movements than in an eighteenth-century serenade, but less so than in a concerto. Each of the movements has a distinct character, sometimes an unstated program, but they are also quite interrelated by thematic content.
“If the traditional serenade was meant as a pleasant diversion from the humdrum or troubled everyday life, this is one that hopes to carry us away for a brief time from the news of disaster and terrorism so prevalent in the world today, a serenade for the world in turmoil.”
In intent and character, Hayes’ model for his 27-minute Serenade may have been a work by his teacher John Weinzweig, his 1946 Divertimento No. 1 for flute and strings, which has become one of the most frequently played Canadian compositions. Hayes might also have taken his cue for the instrumentation from another relatively well-known work by an American, Aaron Copland’s Quiet City (1941), also scored for strings plus featured roles for English horn and trumpet. It was an inspired choice on Hayes’ part to pair these two soloists, for their timbres are remarkably similar, and he exploits this quality to the fullest, keeping them almost constantly playing either duets or in dialogue with each other.
The first movement has a jaunty air to it, reminiscent of Stravinsky’s rhythmic counterpoint. The three-part second movement moves from an orientally-tinged opening to a more quixotic middle section to a quietly reflective conclusion. The third movement is lyrical, as its title indicates, but it also displays quirky rhythmic activity and piquant harmony. Again, Stravinsky can be heard lurking in the background. The finale carries the Serenade to a lively and jocular conclusion.