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William Kraft Timpani Concerto #2

I just received the master for a live recording I had the privilege of conducting of Bill Kraft’s 2nd Timpani Concerto, “The Grand Adventure.” The incredible soloist is David Herbert, Principal Timpanist of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the wonderful orchestra is Symphony Silicon Valley in San Jose, California. Tom Johnson did a very fine job capturing it electronically!

Bill and I have been friends and colleagues since 1972. At that time I was the Conductor of the Debut Orchestra of the Young Musicians Foundation of Los Angeles. Bill was my advisor and our first encounter was when I was conducting a fiendishly difficult piece by Messiaen, “Couleurs de la Cite Celeste.” Ever since then I have been championing his music. So far I’ve recorded 8 works of his including his 1st Timpani Concerto with the marvelous Tom Akins and the Alabama Symphony Orchestra when I was its Music Director. So now with the release of the 2nd concerto, both of Bill’s fantastic pieces for the instrument can be widely heard.

The 1st concerto is for a standard set of timpani. The 2nd, however is for 15! There are 6 standard size timpani on the floor and 9 small timps suspended on a circular metal rack about 4-5 feet above the floor, surrounding the soloist. David had to not only execute a VERY difficult solo part but be in constant motion to get at the many instruments. This required him to p;lay the piece mostly from memory, another huge feat. Communicating with each other was harder than usual because we could catch each other’s eye only at certain moments. It’s astounding how good the ensemble is, especially considering that it was a live performance. David and I were really on the same page.

The orchestra was great. The players understood what they had to do very quickly and despite the complexities the rehearsal process went smoothly and efficiently. I’d like to give a special thanks to the percussion section which had so much of importance to do. At one point three players all play on a vibraphone with string bass bows. The 1st percussion had to find 32 tuned gongs for the week–and much more.

So bravo to one and all.  And another special thanks to Andrew Bales, the CEO and founder of the orchestra who recognized the value of the project and gave it his full support. It would not have happened otherwise.

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Paul Polivnick
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