Pro Musica Rara offers student composer competition with royal twist
Competitions for young composers are not uncommon.
But one that asks contestants to incorporate a famous theme by Frederick the Great and score the piece for period instruments is about as unusual as it gets.
Pro Musica Rara, Baltimore's longtime champion of historically informed performances, has issued a fascinating challenge to students in the Baltimore-Washington area. They are invited to submit an original work that references the chromatic melody that Frederick the Great gave to Bach.
The king surprised Bach with that theme and asked the composer to generate a fugue from it, which was promptly improvised on the spot. Then Frederick got a little greedy -- you know how royals can be -- and asked for much, much more. Bach's ultimate response was "The Musical Offering," a brilliant demonstration in the art of counterpoint.
Currently enrolled students interested in taking the Pro Musica challenge may submit a previously unperformed work, up to 6 minutes in length, that incorporates Frederick's theme "in some way."
The piece must also be "suitably and idiomatically ...
scored for period instruments" -- transverse flute; baroque violin, viola and cello; harpsichord -- all tuned, baroque-style, at A=415 (rather than the contemporary standard of A=440). The rules state that any combination of those instruments is acceptable and that a second violin part may be included.
The winner will receive $250 and the new piece will get a public premiere (and live recording) at Pro Musica Rara’s annual SuperBach Sunday concert in February at Towson University.
Pro Musica artistic director Allen Whear will judge the entries "in consultation with PMR musicians and board members."
Deadline for submissions is Dec. 15. More information is available on the organization's Web site.
Here's Frederick the Great's tricky little theme:
PUBLIC DOMAIN PHOTO