Montana Music: Chorale Variations for symphonic wind ensemble is one of four “Montana Music” pieces written between September 1992 and June 1993. The others are Montana Music: Three Dances for Percussion, Montana Music: Fantasy on a Chorale Tune for violin and viola, and Montana Music: Trio for violin, cello, and piano. These pieces are not connected thematically, and are for very different ensembles, yet a single impluse embraces all four works. It is an implulse that arises directly from the Montana land. That impulse is, I believe, the force of the Earth itself at this very special place, and the force of the life that this land has produced and supported over millennia. I have experienced an urgent need to transmit this impulse in musical form.
The music of J.S. Bach is one of the grand monuments of Western art. It is a gathering point of all that came before, and a root point for all subsequent musical development. I use the music of Bach daily for study and meditation. The four-part chorales, which have been used for generations by beginning music theory students, have become especially meaningful to me. They are passionate little studies in line and harmony. I have thought for years to bring them forward in some way in my own music, and now after much absorbing and reflection, the door is open and the way is clear. It now seems to me perfectly appropriate that eighteenth-century Lutheran hymns by J.S. Bach should be the vehicle for a late-twentieth-century “Montana Music.”
This work is based on the chorale O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden (No. 98 in the 371 Four-part Chorales), which transnlates roughly as “O head, bloodied and wounded.”
Montana Music: Chorale Variations was commissioned by the Bishop Ireton Symphonic Wind Ensemble (Alexandria, VA), Garwood Whaley, director.
Program notes by David Maslanka