Consider, if you will, the poor timpanist. At most symphony concerts, he (or she) has to sit quietly—waiting for the moment when a dramatic "thwack" is called for from the kettledrums. While the violinists in the orchestra rarely get a break, the timpanist must sit patiently for most of the evening, biding his time, waiting for one or two precise moments to strike.
On rare occasions, however, the timpanist is the center of attention, functioning as the soloist in a timpani concerto. One of these concertos was written by an American composer, William Kraft, who was born on this day in 1923. Kraft—perhaps not surprisingly—just happens to have been a timpanist himself. In fact, Kraft served as a percussionist and timpanist with the Los Angeles Philharmonic for 26 years, from 1955-1981. He was that orchestra's first composer-in-residence, and founded the LA Philharmonic's first New Music Group.
William Kraft's "Timpani Concerto" was written in 1983 for timpanist Thomas Akins of the Indianapolis Symphony, who premiered the work with that orchestra in 1984. Kraft's own description of his Timpani Concerto is as follows, "The first movement is very jazzy, with a lot of big-band motifs. The second movement is very beautiful, with two string orchestras and a lot of glissandi, and the third is hell-bent for leather."
Music Played in Today's Program
William Kraft (b. 1923)Timpani ConcertoThomas Akins, timpani; Alabama Symphony; Paul Polivnick, cond.Albany 302