Berklee Today

Welwood Concerto Premiered

From the left: Trumpeter Greg Hopkins, conductor Tibor Pusztai, and composer Arthur Welwood after the Hartford premiere.
Photo by Mark Small

On November 16, three Berklee faculty members, composer Arthur Welwood, conductor Tibor Pusztai, and trumpet soloist Greg Hopkins, joined forces with the Connecticut Valley Chamber Orchestra in Hartford, Connecticut, for the premiere of Welwood's Wind Sky Clouds, a poem for solo trumpet/flugelhorn and orchestra. Welwood said the piece is a distinct departure from the more traditional style of writing he typically employs. "Greg Hopkins told me he liked my music and asked me if I would write a concerto for him two years ago," recalls Welwood. "I've worked on it since then, and we made last-minute adjustments right up to the final rehearsal."

The piece, a 20-minute dialogue between Hopkins's trumpet and flugelhorn and the orchestra, spotlights Welwood's melodic and harmonic vocabulary with Hopkins's inimitable improvisations interjected throughout. It is the first work Welwood has written in which he gave his soloist free reign to improvise over open-ended sections. "I had to take a different approach from the start," says Welwood. "I've always written everything out, but I left a lot of places with just chord symbols for Greg to solo over." Of the piece, Hopkins says, "Ideally, I hear the improvisations as a natural extension of the composer's ideas. After working on the piece for a couple of months, the improvisations became very organic, resulting in a cohesive piece of music featuring Welwood's melodic palette and my penchant for twisting and turning the themes and other ideas."

After opening with an allegretto section as a classical trumpet concerto would, Welwood set Hopkins free to explore the themes and improvise around them. While the piece is performed in one long movement, Welwood provided descriptive titles to the work's five different sections: "Wind," "Sky," "Clouds," "Ballade," and "Nimbus." Each section segues into the next without pause.

A Berklee faculty development grant aided Welwood in producing a finished score and parts for his work. Musical assistance in creating a piano reduction for rehearsal purposes was provided by Associate Professor Tom Hojnacki and Assistant Professor James Reyes.

Welwood has written more than 60 pieces, including orchestral works, chamber music, and song cycles. "I've been teaching at Berklee for 10 years now, and it's finally gotten to me," Welwood jokes. "I think it has helped me to loosen up."