Friday, January 27, 2012

CCC 015 - Walter Ross

American composer Walter Ross is next on our Consonant Classical Challenge.

Walter Ross is an affable man who, as he tells it, had an epiphany early in his career. Ross was sitting in the audience of the new music concert, waiting for his work to be performed. As he looked around the sparsely-filled house, he realized that the only people in the audience were the composers and performers of the other works on the program, each waiting for their turn. It was at that point that Ross made the conscious choice to write music that was accessible to the general public.

He's kept that vow, while composing works that are well-worth listening to -- and performing. Ross is a French horn player, and has written extensively for brass instruments and brass ensembles. Listenability and playability are the two hallmarks of Ross's style.

His piano concerto is a good example. The solo part lays well on the keyboard, and the orchestral parts are all idiomatically written. Here's the first movement of the Walter Ross Piano Concerto.

Unfortunately, most of Ross' recordings and videos are of his brass music. Still they're representative of the type of music he writes for orchestral forces. From a recent performance, here's a work for trombone quartet. Again, note how  Ross uses his specialized knowledge of the instrument to create music that uses the trombone to best advantage.

alter Ross has devoted a life to not just composing the best possible music he can from a technical standpoint, but music that also communicates with an audience. Why isn't his music performed more often? I'm sure the brass section would love to.

Recommended recordings 

Walter Ross: Three Concertos

Walter Ross: Brass Trios

Ross/Schwantner/Penn: Works for Tuba

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