Carter Pann (b. 1972) is a celebrated composer and accomplished pianist who has written music from solo works to large orchestra and wind ensemble pieces. His works have been performed around the world. He is on the faculty of the University of Colorado at Boulder, where he continues to write distinctly original music. He provides the following program note in the score of The Three Embraces:
The Three Embraces (2013) was commissioned by current and former students and dear friends in celebration of Allan McMurray‘s final concert after 35 years as Director of Bands at the University of Colorado.
In three movements, these pieces are songs for band. Within The Three Embraces I strived to explore completely new musical territory – different from that of my previous works for winds.
The first and second movements are titled “Antique, Calming” and “With Quiet Longing,” respectively, and are to sound like aural aromas. The players are given a long trail of the softest dynamics – full fortes are rare events in these pieces. Requesting the utmost dynamic restraint from wind and brass players is a risk I have learned to relish taking. The musical reward is so great and the timbral beauty so rich and ever so right to my ears. These first two movements also feature harp and celesta as the two prevailing colors suffusing the music, giving them what I hope to be an aura of ancient, inward elegance (Maurice Ravel lurks in the shadows of these two model Renaissance compositions).
The final movement is a celebration, beginning with three bold proclamations for saxophones and high brass. As the movement unfolds there are pastoral melodies juxtaposed over more modern, angular harmonies.
In describing this piece to Allan at the beginning of rehearsals I made a quip that I now find quite apt: A chance encounter between Schubert and Stravinsky on the Appalachian Trail. This is not the first work I have had the fortune to dedicate to my him, but it has become the dearest to me – a final expression for a colleague, mentor, and friend. Over the years I have come to learn of Allan’s path through music over time, the key mentors of his past, and his performing experiences around the world. I have even had the pleasure of meeting him in faraway places to share a gig. It is through this kind of time with him (and some very special time on his back deck overlooking much of the Boulder/Denver area) that I have learned this gentleman’s values, both in music and in life. His humor is magnetic and ever-present, his magnanimity so humble. I count myself a lucky one to have had a window of time on faculty with such an extraordinary musician and giving person as Allan McMurray.
Pann is often very specific in the instructions for the piece, insisting, for instance: “Please do not assign the PIANO part to a timid, furtive, frail player.” This makes the score a colorful read beyond the notes.
Here is an unnamed ensemble playing a complete performance of The Three Embraces:
You can also listen on Soundcloud or Pann’s website for the piece. Further exploration there will show you his full bio, a works list, and much more. You can also read about him on Wikipedia, his faculty page at CU Boulder, and Theodore Presser.