84. Interviews – Composer Thomas Hundemer on his “Recuerdo de Xalapa”
February’s installment of Nachtmusik von BrainSurge features Thomas Hundemer, a French hornist and composer based in Shreveport, Louisiana. If you were at Nachtmusik last November, then you have already heard one of Mr. Hundemer’s pieces as Paul and Leah Forsyth played selections from his Three Reeds Suite at that concert. Tuesday night, Hundemer and his wife, flutist Sally Horak, will play another of his original compositions, Recuerdo de Xalapa. I had the opportunity to speak with Mr. Hundemer about his piece, and here is what he had to say.
What is the meaning of the title Recuerdo de Xalapa? Sally and I lived for several years in Xalapa, Veracruz, Mexico and performed with the orchestra. We've been back to visit a few times, and I wrote this little souvenir after one visit. I think I remember a street near a shop where I got the initial idea for the piece. We've performed this piece several times, probably at least 6 to 8 times since the initial version in 1991.
Have your thoughts on Recuerdo de Xalapa changed any since you composed it? This is a small, light, almost inconsequential piece but I've expanded it several times over the years. I seem to keep coming back to it with additional ideas from time to time, although I haven't made any changes this time. I seem to have more ideas for it each time I revisit it.
Because you and your wife play horn and flute, this instrumental lineup is a practical combination for you, if uncommon otherwise. Have other musicians played Recuerdo, either in this form or in an arrangement? I've done a version for flute and cello that has been performed a few times—actually I like this version quite a bit, and am open to other arrangements of the piece. I want to make a horn duet version, and a violin/cello version would work quite well too.
Are there any special challenges in writing for this instrumental combination? Can you treat these instruments—both winds—similarly, or do their unique timbres encourage a different treatment? In general, the flute is the melodic part and the horn is the bass line due to the nature of the music, but writing for both melodically is similar except for the ranges of the instruments.
Have you learned anything about composition from playing your own pieces? I've learned to try to write more simply and easily for the instruments, but not sure I've always been successful at executing that!
Is there anything else you would like to say about this piece? This is not a serious or profound piece of music, but it's been to me, surprisingly fun to play and audiences seem to enjoy it. It's one of my favorites of music I've composed, and with the Franz Doppler piece—Souvenir du Rigi—makes for two “souvenirs” on our program.
Tuesday’s concert is entitled Enchanted Landscapes and begins at 6:30 PM at BrainSurge located at the corner of Texas and Jackson, between Sylvan Learning and Wildwood Pizza in Alexandria. Recuerdo de Xalapa will be just one of the exciting works featured! Tom Hundemer, Sally Horak, and pianist Daniel Ley will also introduce you to great music by British composer Gordon Jacob, the Austrian Franz Doppler, and a handful of contemporary American composers, including Katherine Hoover and Jan Bach. Full program notes are available here!
About Jackson. Jackson Harmeyer is a music scholar, composer, and advocate of music. Jackson graduated summa cum laude from the Louisiana Scholars’ College located in Natchitoches, Louisiana in May 2013 after completing his undergraduate thesis “Learning from the Past: The Influence of Johann Sebastian Bach upon the Soviet Composers.” As series director of the successful Abendmusik Alexandria chamber music series from May 2014 to April 2016, Jackson played a vital role in the renewal of interest in chamber music across central Louisiana. This interest has encouraged the creation of the annual Sugarmill Music Festival and the new series Nachtmusik von BrainSurge, both of which Jackson remains active in as concert annotator and creative consultant. He also blogs at MusicCentral where he shares concert experiences, gives listening recommendations, posts interviews with contemporary composers, and offers insights into his own compositions. As a composer, he has worked to integrate a modern vocabulary into established classical forms in ways that are not only innovative but also engaging to the general listener. In fall 2016, Jackson began graduate studies in musicology at the University of Louisville where he also sings with the University Chorus and participates in the School of Music Composition Seminar. Learn more about Jackson Harmeyer, his scholarship, and his compositions at www.JacksonHarmeyer.com.