Tromba Lontana

fanfare for orchestra (1985)

John Adams on Tromba Lontana

Tromba Lontana (‘distant trumpet’), was written at the request of the Houston Symphony, part of a fanfare commissioning project initiated by the composer Tobias Picker, who wrote his own well-known Old and Lost Rivers for the same series.  Taking a subversive point of view on the idea of the generic loud, extrovert archetype of the fanfare, I composed a four-minute work that barely rises about mezzo piano and that features two stereophonically placed solo trumpets (to the back of the stage or on separate balconies), who intone gently insistent calls, each marked by a sustained note followed by a soft staccato tattoo. The orchestra provides a pulsing continuum of serene ticking in the pianos, harps and percussion. In the furthest background is a long, almost disembodied melody for strings that passes by almost unnoticed like nocturnal clouds.

Although Tromba Lontana was published by Boosey & Hawkes in a grouping called “2 Fanfares for orchestra,” I never intended the piece to be paired with Short Ride in a Fast Machine. They are united only in the fact that they are orchestral fanfares, but in fact it is difficult to make work in a satisfying manner in live concert. I myself have never programmed them together.

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2 fl. (1&2=picc), 2 ob., 2 clar, 4 hrn, 2 tpt, glock, crotales, susp. cym, vib, piano, harp and strings.

First performance: April 4, 1986, Jones Hall, Houston. Houston Symphony, Sergiu Commissiona, cond.

Nonesuch 79144-2; Nonesuch 79453 (Earbox); EMI 55051

Duration: 4 min.

Publisher: Boosey & Hawkes



San Francisco Symphony
Edo de Waart, conductor
Nonesuch 79144-2

rattle EMI cover
City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra
Simon Rattle, conductor
EMI records

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