A Doctoral Document on a Norwegian composer is not an everyday occurrence. A doctorate written by a horn player on Wolfgang Plagge’s works for horn is definitely something out of the ordinary.
“There was just something in Plagge’s works that spoke to me” says Athens, Georgia based Doctor of Musical Arts and hornist Carrie D. Strickland on the initial fascination for the Norwegian composer’s works. Her interest for the composer’s works for horn has remained strong, and it has now led her to her finishing paper that marks the end of her studies at the University of Georgia.
“A Performance Guide for Wolfgang Plagge’s Music for Horn” is the title given to Strickland’s Doctoral Document that marks the end of her Doctor of Musical arts studies at the University of Georgia. As Mic.no catches up with Strickland, she’s in the finishing stages of her Doctoral Document and is about to return to the US. Since August last year, Strickland, a Fulbright Grant recipient, has been in Oslo, working actively to create the foundation for her “Performance Guide” trough interviews, performances, research and long conversations with the composer himself.
Strickland was first introduced to Plagge’s works through performances by fellow students and recordings by Norwegian hornist Frøydis Ree Wekre, most notably her rendition of the composer’s First Sonata. Says Carrie Strickland on those first encounters with Plagge’s music: “There was something in these works that spoke to me. It just seemed as if Plagge had an incredible amount to say. Plagge is such an incredible composer and musician!”
The aim of Strickland’s Performance Guide is to provide a source of analytical and historical material for the performer. In Strickland’s opinion, the lack of information sources on the composer combined with hornists’ interest in new music represented a need for her study on Wolfgang Plagge and his works for horn.
When Strickland began her search for more information on the Norwegian composer, she came up with little: “I discovered that in the US there was very little information available on the composer and his works. A performer searching for performance considerations, historical facts, factual information and relevant theoretical points for the works would not find much.”
The process from initial fascination of Plagge’s works to her finished Doctoral Document has been a long one: “It has been a process that’s been going on for six to seven years. The piece that first spoke to me was the Third Sonata, and I later heard other works performed by Ree Wekre and Javier Bonet. When it came time to discuss a topic for my Doctoral Document, I had to choose Plagge.”
When asked if Plagge’s music is recognised among performers abroad, Strickland responds:” As far as horn players go; yes, the works are known. But there is little available written information on the works and the composers. A situation my Performance Guide will improve on. Plagge is a central composer among hornists today. It is unusual that a composer has written so many works for one instrument. Plagge has written four sonatas and no less than seven major works for horn. That’s a significant contribution to the instrument’s repertoire.”
One of the aims of Strickland’s projects has been to make performers aware of other Plagge works, not just his First and Third Sonatas. “I think that Plagge’s works will become standard repertoire for hornists, at least it is my hope that they will. Some of his works already are, and other works will work their way into performers’ concert and recording repertoire.”
When asked on why Plagge has written so extensively for horn Strickland says: “Plagge is fascinated by brass. The sound. The singing quality of the instruments. In addition, Plagge has in Frøydis Ree Wekre one of the instrument’s best performers and teachers close at hand. If he writes something for her, she’ll play it! He’s also a big believer in inspiration. When the idea comes to him he writes it! I asked whether if he tailored compositions for the performer, he said that he didn’t – he wrote it as it came to him. The key to understand his compositions is part the fact that he’s fascinated by brass, part that the idea simply came to him.
For her Performance Guide Strickland conducted interviews with four key figures: the composer himself plus prominent hornists Frøydis Ree Wekre, Karl Kramer and Javier Bonet. The guide is intended as a guide for the performer and a resource for horn players looking to include a variety of recent works in their repertoire. Strickland aims at answering most, if not all, questions horn players might ask in order perform Plagge’s works well. Strickland discusses Plagge’s works for unaccompanied horn, horn and piano, and two horns and piano. The performance guide consists of factual information (i.e. date of composition, length of composition, publisher information, and recordings available), performance considerations and relevant theoretical points for each work.
“I have to say that it has been an amazing experience to come to Oslo – to live here and work with Plagge and Wekre. Plagge is such an incredible composer and musician. It’s been really fun. I’ve enjoyed it thoroughly! Both Wekre and Plagge are fabulous!”
Wolfgang Plagge was born in Oslo, Norway, of Dutch parents in 1960. At a very early age he showed a genuine interest of classical music, and started playing the piano as well as writing his first compositions aged four. He was ten when he won an international talent competition in English television; one year later he also won the Young Pianists' Competition in Oslo.
In 1972 he made a sensational recital debut in Oslo – with HM King Olav V present in the auditorium. He went on to win several national and international prizes in the years to follow, among them the Forsberg Legate in 1979 and the Levin Prize in 1987. In 1986 he concluded his 6 years of study at the Musikhochschule in Hamburg, Germany, with distinction. He pursues an active career as an international pianist, and is much in demand as a chamber musician. He has been performing as a soloist with a great number of orchestras in Norway and abroad, and has worked with such internationally renowned artists as Ole Edvard Antonsen, Jens Harald Bratlie, Alexandr Dmitriev, Philippe Entremont, Lutz Herbig, Piotr Janowski, Evgeni Koroliov, Solveig Kringlebotn, Truls Mørk, Robert Oppenheimer, Leif Segerstam, Randi Stene, Roberto Szidon, Lars Anders Tomter, Frøydis Ree Wekre and many others. He has released CDs on the SIMAX, 2L, Crystal and Norske Gram labels.
Ever since his student days in Norway and Germany the phenomenon Time has been one of Plagge's main focusing points: Studying the time flow, manipulating our sense of time and how to utilize time as a forming tool have been central items in his creative process.
Wolfgang Plagge's music is being performed by musicians, ensembles and orchestras all over the world, and his reputation as a composer is ever growing. In 1996 he was created "Composer of the Year" with the Trondheim Symphony Orchestra. A number of works are recorded on CD; scores can be obtained through Musikk-Husets Forlag AS Oslo, or the Music Information Centre Norway. Wolfgang Plagge is a member of the Norwegian Society of Composers.
Strickland plans to publish excerpts of her performance guide in a series of articles in Horn Call, the Official Journal of the International Horn Society.
Upon her return to the states, Strickland will embark on a recital tour featuring Plagge’s works. Go to the calendar section for dates and venues.
The final copy of her performance guide is scheduled for publishing on April 26. The performance guide will be readily available from the University of Georgia in September.