CHICAGO - Four members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's back row charge forward Thursday night.
Normally, the veteran musicians of the low brass section are the pulse beneath the melody.
"Big and strong and powerful and unrelenting... we're the engine of the orchestra," explained CSO Principal Tuba Gene Pokorny.
But in performing the world premiere of Jennifer Higdon's Low Brass Concerto, Pokorny, Bass Trombone Charles Vernon, Principal Trombone Jay Friedman and Trombone Michael Mulcahy take on a role they rarely know within the orchestra: soloists. For this piece, they play diverse stretches of music from blaring to soothing.
"We actually can play lyrically, we can actually be below radar," explained Pokorny.
The group met with composer Jennifer Higdon to discuss what they'd want in a piece. The finished product stretches the low brass's range shifting gears throughout one piece to show off all that these horns can offer.
Chicago Symphony Orchestra commissioned the piece with the Philadelphia Orchestra and Baltimore Symphony Orchestra co-commissioning the work from Higdon, who is both a Pulitzer Prize and Grammy winner.
While the music flexes several low brass muscles, it finishes with what may be their signature style: thudding, rumbling and blasting to the last note.
"Take no prisoners... make the whole audience flinch," joked Pokorny of the piece's ending.
The Low Brass Concerto makes its world premiere at Symphony Center Thursday night. There are just three performances-one on Thursday, Friday and Saturday each. Then the orchestra takes the piece on an East Coast tour.