Oliver Caplan (b. 1982) is a Boston-based composer of romantically-tinged music for all combinations of instruments and voices. He grew up in the Bronx, attending Stuyvesant high school, where he played piccolo in the band. He left in New York in 2000 for Dartmouth College, where the rich outdoor environment and mix of musical personalities (like the Dartmouth College Marching Band) inspired his interest in composition. He went on to graduate study at the Boston Conservatory. Caplan’s music has been performed all over the United States. He has received commissions from the Columbia University Wind Ensemble, the Hopkins Center at Dartmouth College, the Juventas New Music Ensemble, the Sinfonietta of Riverdale, the Sun Valley Chamber Winds, and the Atlanta Chamber Players, among many others. He has received numerous awards and fellowships, including the American Prize in composition and annual ASCAP awards.
Krummholz Variations came about as a commission from the Sun Valley Chamber Winds and its music director, Andy Pease, a fellow Dartmouth alumnus, to be written as a companion piece for the Stravinsky Octet using the latter piece’s unique instrumentation. Caplan includes the following program note in his score:
Krummholz Variations is a tone poem that recalls aspects of life in the alpine zone, expressed through a set of short, connected variations: Dawn, Marmots, Alpine Meadow, Ptarmigan, The Summit, Headwaters, Cloudburst and Dusk. Krummholz, German for “crooked wood,” are twisted trees that serve as gateways to the alpine zone and mountaintop sentinels. These stunted trees are shaped through constant exposure to severe weather and treasured for their unique deformities. High altitude landscapes are a paradigm for beauty in the face of harshness, filled with moments of joy and serenity that blossom amidst extremes.
A consortium of 13 ensembles commissioned Krummholz Variations as a companion piece for Igor Stravinsky’s beloved Octet. The Stravinsky composition, a seminal work in the wind-brass chamber repertoire, deploys an unusual instrumentation (flute, clarinet, 2 bassoons, 2 trumpets and 2 trombones). There was a need for additional music that could readily be programmed alongside it.
A recording of the world premiere:
Broad interest in this project produced a commissioning consortium, which included the following organizations:
Sun Valley Chamber Winds, Andrew D. Pease (consortium leader)
Atlanta Chamber Players, Elizabeth Pridgen
Dartmouth College, Matthew M. Marsit
Hope College, Gabe Southard
Indiana Wind Symphony, Charles Conrad
Limestone College, Patrick K. Carney
Middle Tennessee State University, Reed Thomas
Rowan University, Joseph Higgins
Some Assembly Required, Justin Croushore, Cholong Park & Justin Stanley
University of Central Missouri, Scott Lubaroff
University of Central Oklahoma, Brian Lamb
University of Northern Colorado, Kenneth Singleton & Richard Mayne
West Chester University, Andrew Yozviak