Landscapes for Brass Quintet

I. Northern Woods

II. Northern Lakes

III. Voyageurs




Karel Husa (1921 – 2016)

Composer Information

Karel Husa, winner of the 1993 Grawemeyer Award and the 1969 Pulitzer Prize for Music, is an internationally known composer and conductor. An American citizen since 1959, Husa was born in Prague, Czechoslovakia. Among his teachers were Arthur Honegger, Nadia Boulanger, the conductors André Cluytens, Eugène Bigot, and Jean Fournet and the Czech composer J. Rídký. After completing studies at the Prague Conservatory and, later, the Academy of Music, he went to Paris where he received diplomas from the Paris National Conservatory and the Ecole Normale de Musique. In 1954, Husa was appointed to the faculty of Cornell University where he was Kappa Alpha Professor until his retirement in 1992. He received Czech Academy and Lili Boulanger Prizes, Koussevitzky and UNESCO commissions, among many others, and has been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship and won the 1969 Pulitzer Prize in composition for his String Quartet No. 3.


Husa’s music has been performed at important musical centers including, Edinburgh, Salzburg, Berlin, Prague, Paris, Donaueschingen, Frankfurt, Brussels, Washington, New York and Tokyo. He has conducted numerous recordings, among them the first European recording of Bartok’s Miraculous Mandarin, his own Fantasies for Orchestra, and Mosaiques For Orchestra (Cri 221), Symphony No. 1 Together With Serenade For Woodwind Quintet And Orchestra (Cri 261), and Music For Prague 1968, which has had over 4000 performances and has become part of the standard repertory of orchestras and concert bands. He passed away on Dec. 14, 2006 at his home in Apex, North Carolina, he was 95.



Associated Music Publishers Inc.





Ranking Position



Games for Brass: New Music for Brass Quintet by Western Brass Quintet: Summit Records, 2009. 


Types of Instruments/Mutes

2 C trumpets (also piccolo trumpet), horn, trombone, and tuba. Trumpets require harmon, whispa and straight mutes. Trombone needs a plunger, harmon, and straight mutes. Horn and tuba also require mutes.

Final Considerations

The music requires sensitive players on every instrument, who also posses great technical abilities. Nowhere is this more true then in the first trumpet part, where the range alone will chalenge the most professional of players. Quarter tones, lip bending, lip slurs, fall off, half valve, flutter, mouthpiece out, multi-phonics, blowing air, and overblowing are the required extended techniques for this demanding piece. Husa comments on his composition:


“The titles are self-explanatory, though not descriptive. The work reflects our time with view of majestic, mysterious nature embellished by travelers such as northern geese and spaceships exploring the universe.’ Although the composer insists that the music is not programmatic, the listener will readily agree that the concept is romantic. Even the structure of each movement represents those open-ended forms which composers of the previous century frequently used to work out their fanciful, if not sentimental ideas, and the virtuosic demands which the music makes on the performers is also congruent with the ideals of that age. “The first movement, ‘Northern Woods’ is a fanfare which reflects the grandeur and majesty of the forests of North America. The composer suggested in comments he made at the premiere performance that the music could also be considered as reflective of the magnificence of the scientific discoveries which have come to bless contemporary lives.


The second movement is set in three-part song form. The A section of ‘Northern Lakes’ is serene, not unlike the tranquility of a remote aquatic setting which has not been spoiled by intruders. The B section digresses from the tranquil mood, becoming immediately and totally violent, perhaps reflecting those catastrophic events in nature such as a landslide, or the killing of a whale. The A section returns, but in altered form, its serenity tempered by the experience and knowledge of the catastrophe.


 ‘Voyageurs’ is a perpetuum mobile. The composer indicated his interest in creating a single, continuously sustained, crescendo, on the order of Ravel’s Bolero or Honegger’s Pacific 231. By his ingenious use of mutes and special effects the composer is successful in creating the long voyage which anticipates with each passing measure the arrival at the final destination. The music may not be descriptive, but the composer has most certainly brought about a successful amalgamation of elements from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.”