Steven Gross is Professor of Horn and Head of the Wind, Brass, and Percussion Area at the University of California–Santa Barbara. Dr. Gross is also a former member of the Atlanta Symphony, National Symphony, Santa Fe Opera Orchestra, and for 24 years Principal Horn of the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra. His international solo appearances include the Orchester der Stadt Vöcklabruck in Austria, Moscow Conservatory, Beijing Central Conservatory, L'Abri International Arts Festival in Switzerland, Nairobi Symphony in Kenya, NTUA Wind Ensemble in Taiwan, WINDWORX in South Africa, and the Camerata Filarmonia Bohemia of Prague. His Carnegie Hall debut was described by the New York Concert Review as, "offering some of the cleanest articulation and purest musicality.”
Twice Dr. Gross has been in residence at the Beijing Central Conservatory, performing in recital, teaching masterclasses, and conducting horn ensembles. He has also been a featured soloist and clinician at the South African National Horn Symposium.
Dr. Gross has released four solo CDs with orchestra on the Summit label. Gramophone Magazine praised his playing for its “subtle flair and vibrant character,” as well as its “suave and poetic conversation.” Reviews from the American Record Guide describe his playing as “outstanding, striking the right balance between thoughtfulness and verve, planning and spontaneity…an excellent tone and the ability and temperament to play heroically.” Horn Call magazine states that he “plays technically flawlessly and highly expressively throughout…Highly recommended.”
In 2008, Dr. Gross was awarded the Stich-Punto Commemorative Plaque from the Czech Horn Society for outstanding devotion to Czech horn music. He is only the second American to receive this award.
Steven Gross has given numerous international masterclasses. European masterclasses include the Moscow Conservatory, Beijing Central Conservatory, Royal Academy of Music in London, and in Austria. Swiss masterclasses include those in Zurich, Basel, Lucerne, and Winterthur. Dr. Gross has been a featured artist at Hornclass and the Ameropa International Chamber Music Festival in the Czech Republic. In South Africa, he was clinician at the Stellenbosch Conservatory and the University of Cape Town. Dr. Gross was a faculty artist in China at the First International Music Festival at SIAS University, as well as guest Principal horn with the Hunan Symphony. In 2008, the National Taiwan University for Arts appointed Dr. Gross Visiting Professor of Horn.
At the age of 21, Steven Gross won the First International Heldenleben Horn Competition. He is now Executive Director of the International Horn Competition of America, North America’s leading solo event for horn. His summers include performing as Principal horn of the Oregon Coast Music Festival Orchestra, and horn faculty at the Crescendo Summer Institute in Tokaj, Hungary.
American Double was founded in 2001 by two Yale graduates with a vision of enriching their performances with works by composers of American heritage. They specialize in the music of Pulitzer Prize-winning composer William Bolcom, with whom they coached in preparation for their CD release “The Bolcom Project," which remains the only recording of his complete works for violin and piano and Bolcom has praised it as “great benchmarks for other performers, but also great performances on their own merits." Fanfare magazine “strongly recommended” the recording (May/June 2008).
Philip Ficsor, whose playing was described as “luminous” by the Santa Barbara Independent, has released a recording with composer/pianist Emma Lou Diemer entitled “Summer Day,” featuring her complete works for violin and piano. An enthusiastic advocate for contemporary American composers, he also recorded William Bolcom’s complete works for violin and piano as part of the ensemble American Double.
Fanfare “strongly recommended” the recording and The Strad described Ficsor’s playing of the Suite for Solo Violin “beautifully managed and well-prepared”. He received his DMA in violin performance from Boston University where his dissertation analyzed performance aspects of William Bolcom’s works for violin and piano. Ficsor received his Master of Music from Yale University, where he studied with Erick Friedman, and earned his BM and an MM in Violin from the University of Michigan, studying with Stephen Shipps. He is an editorial advisor for publication through E. B. Marks/Hal Leonard Corporation. He has participated in numerous festivals across Europe and the U.S., including The Meadowmount School of Music, Holland Music Festival (Netherlands), as well as the Semmering Festival in Austria. Pre-college, Mr. Ficsor attended the Hans Richter Conservatory of Music in Györ, Hungary, where he was enrolled as a violin student and learned to speak Hungarian fluently. From 2006-2013 he was a tenured Associate Professor of Music at Westmont College, and is currently a performing artist based in the Denver area.
Constantine Finehouse was born in St. Petersburg, Russia, and attended New England Conservatory, Juilliard and Yale. His principal teachers included Fredrik Wanger, Natalia Harlap, Herbert Stessin, Jerome Lowenthal, Boris Berman and Bruce Brubaker. Praised by Rhein Main Presse - Allgemeine Zeitung for his "interpretations of depth and maturity,” Finehouse has performed extensively abroad, including in Lausanne, London, Odessa, St. Petersburg and Trieste, and in the U.S. in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island and Washington. His newest album with cellist Sebastian Bäverstam features the Brahms Sonata, Op. 38 for piano and cello, as well as several new works in the romantic style by Boston composer Tony Schemmer. His 2009 solo recording, Backwards Glance [Spice Rack Records 101-01], interweaves music of Brahms and Richard Beaudoin.
The Bolcom Project, made in collaboration with his American Double partner, violinist Philip Ficsor, encompassed a double-CD [Albany Troy 959/960] and a national tour. Fanfare praised the recording as “indispensable to any serious collector with an interest in later 20th-century duo repertoire for violin and piano.”
Finehouse was awarded the Vladimir Horowitz Scholarship from Juilliard, a 2004 St. Botolph Club Foundation grant and a 2006 Classics Abroad Project Award. He serves on the faculty of New England Conservatory Preparatory and Extension Divisions in Boston, and as Visiting Artist/Faculty at Westmont College, Santa Barbara.
Derek Katz received his PhD from UCSB, his BA from Harvard, and has studied at The Free University of Berlin on a Fulbright Fellowship. His book Janáček Beyond the Borders was published by the University of Rochester Press in 2009. His more recent work deals with institutional support for professional string quartets in the United States in the mid-20th Century. Katz has also worked extensively in public musicology and audience enhancement. He has written for The New York Times, the San Francisco Opera, the Teatro Real Madrid, and the Bavarian State Opera, and spoken at Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall. He also collaborates with the San Francisco Opera Guild, the Ives Collective and the Hausmann Quartet. He is an enthusiastic amateur violist and chamber music player.
William Bolcom: Trio for Horn, Violin, and Piano (2017)
"The Trio for Horn, Violin, and Piano (2017) was commissioned by Steven Gross, with American Double (Philip Ficsor, violin and Constantine Finehouse, piano), and completed in 2017. It is occasioned—I don’t want to write 'inspired'—by the era we’re living in. So many of us feel desperation from the constant endangering of our country and the world; I wrote the Trio to express this, hoping listeners might possibly feel less alone. The heavy plodding rhythms of the first movement are supplanted by a hectic second, a portrait of our misfortune’s principal agent. The following slow movement contains a short moment of respite toward its end—a brief breakthrough of tonal sunshine in C major—and the finale is a resolute march of resistance."
William Bolcom: Second Sonata for Violin and Piano (1979)
This work, finished in 1979, was the fruit of a friendship between violinist Serge Luca and Bolcom. Their association began in 1973, when they played the Duo Fantasy together, a work dedicated to Luca. Bolcom was impressed that Luca had an interest in jazz violin, especially in Joe Venuti, a violinist whom Bolcom held in extremely high regard. While Bolcom has mentioned that there is little in this Sonata that directly relates to Venuti’s style of playing, he feels strongly that there must be a familiarity, on the performer’s part, with the “special world of Venuti”.
Jiří Havlík: Concerto for Horn (1976)
The Concerto for Horn was written during my composition studies at the Prague Conservatory. I wanted to create a concert piece for my instrument, the horn, which I also could use for my own horn performances. The piece has the form of a classical three-movement concerto, flowing from the rich Czech tradition of wind instrument concertos. Several influences went into the composition of the work. These include studies of Czech horn works from the 18th century (Jan Václav Stich-Punto, Antonio Rosetti, etc.) until the 20th century (for example, pieces by Oldrich Flosman, but especially the Horn Concerto by Jiří Pauer). Additionally, there was the experience of a creative and freshly discovered atmosphere for wind composition, shared with my friends (literature for trumpet, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, and trombone). Last, I had my own imagination of horn melodic lines and enriched harmony.
The slow movement brings a legato melodic line for the solo instrument. The cadenza uses the full range of horn registers, and a nostalgically sounding long coda in 5/8 rhythm. This passage is played by muted horn with a sound imagination of “little bells from another world,” based on 2 octaves of parallel unison in the accompaniment.
In 1978, the Concerto was awarded the Special Award of the Czech Ministry of Culture for Composition and Performance.
Václav Nelhýbel: Scherzo Concertante (1966)
The composer of Scherzo Concertante for Horn, Václav Nelhýbel, was born in 1919 in what is now the Czech Republic. He was educated at Charles University and the Prague Conservatory. Nelhýbel moved to Switzerland in 1942, studying at the University of Fribourg. After World War II, he was a composer and conductor for Swiss National Radio, and then the first Music Director of Radio Free Europe in Munich. Nelhýbel emigrated to the United States in 1957, spending most of his career in New York City. Prior to his passing in 1996, he was Composer in Residence at the University of Scranton, and a recipient of many awards.
Václav Nelhýbel has a large output of about 600 compositions, writing for symphony, opera, ballet, band, keyboard, solo instruments, and chorus. However, he is especially known for his wind compositions, which are characterized by high energy and vigorous rhythm, emphasized by interlocking melodies.