Samhain Festival, for horn quartet
by Gavin Lendt
Samhain was one of the four main festivals of the Gaelic calendar, marking the end of the harvest and beginning of winter. It was traditionally celebrated from October 31 to November 1 and its customs are closely associated to modern day Halloween. According to Irish mythology, Samhain was a time when the 'doorways' to the Otherworld opened, allowing supernatural beings and the souls of the dead to come into our world.
This quartet for horns, attempts to capture a bit of the macabre and mythological aspects of Samhain within its three movements. The first moment is a short hunting song, a bit dark and morbid with clashing minor harmonies and punctuated rhythms.
The second movement is a more of a song. The lush and dense four part harmonies may require a sensitive ear to keep in tune. The melody is melancholy, seemingly yearning from within its interval construction of a second followed by a leaping fifth.
The final moment, a rondo, is the longest section of the quartet. Each player of the quartet is given the opportunity to take the lead in this 6/8 dance. Each part can be demanding to the performer, especially during sections where two parts dovetail each other and must keep the strictest of tempo. The piece closes with a sardonic restatement of the hunting theme from the beginning. A bit humorous, a bit tongue-in-cheek, this quartet for horns is sure to be a treat advanced players.