November 7 1949 – February 14 2016

Stephen Stucky, one of the leading American composers of the last half century. has died aged sixty six. Over twelve years he contributed five significant works for wind ensemble

Watch a Steven Stucky performance on video:

THRENOS played by Winnipeg Wind Ensemble, conductor Brent Johnson


1983-4 Voyages for Cello and Wind Orchestra

1992 Funeral Music for Queen Mary (after Henry Purcell)

1994 Fanfares and Arias

1998 Threnos

2002 Concerto for Percussion and Wind Orchestra

2006 Hue and Cry

VOYAGES for Cello and Wind Orchestra

The composer writes:

Having long wanted both to write something for solo cello and to try my hand at writing for wind ensemble, I decided that to combine these two projects might provide very interesting compositional challenges and opportunities. Voyages was commissioned by the Yale Band; the solo part was written for cellist Lynden Cranham. The work was composed between mid-1983 and mid-1984. Ms. Cranham and the Yale Band gave the first performance in New Haven on 7 December 1984, with Thomas C. Duffy conducting.

The work is continuous yet falling into four sections, slow – fast – slow – fast. In the first section, the composer sets out a store of musical material on which he draws four the development of the other three movements, each patterned on the first movement but each more loosely than the last.

FUNERAL MUSIC for Queen Mary (after Henry Purcell)

For some time Steven Stucky was composer-in-residence and new music advisor to the Los Angeles Philharmonic under music director Andre Previn and his successor Esa-Pekka Salonen. This work was written at the invitation of Salonen, and was first performed on February 6th, 1992.

The composer writes:

I used three of the pieces heard at the funeral of Queen Mary; a solemn march, the anthem “In the Midst of Life we are in Death”, and a canzone in imitative polyphonic style. I did not try to achieve a pure, musicological reconstruction but to regard Purcell’s music, which I love deeply, through the lens of three hundred intervening years. Although most of this version is straightforward orchestration of the Purcell originals, there are moments when Purcell drifts out of focus.


This work was commissioned by the Big Eight Band Directors Association, and was premiered at the CBDNA national conference at Boulder on February 22nd, 1995, by the University of Colorado Wind Ensemble, conductor Allen McMurray.

The composer writes:

Fanfares and Arias for wind ensemble is arranged as an alternating series of fast sections (the “fanfares”) and slow sections (the “arias”), in which all the business of making a musical work coherent—beginning and ending clearly, for example, or signalling where we are in the “story”—is carried out by the fanfares, while all the expressive, emotional freight is borne by the arias.


Threnos was commissioned by Maurice Stith and the Cornell University Wind Ensemble in memory of Brian Israel, a gifted composer who died of leukemia at the age of thirty-five.

The composer writes:

The music is dominated by three elements: the forceful arpeggiated gesture heard in the horns at the opening; the constant tolling of bells;and a fragment of lament-like melody first heard in the solo oboe near the beginning. At its climax, the music takes up this oboe melody in a full-throated cry of grief.

CONCERTO for Percussion and Wind Orchestra

Steven Stucky’s Concerto for Percussion and Wind Orchestra was commissioned by a consortium of conductors and wind ensembles, which included WASBE, in honor of Donald Hunsberger on the occasion of his retirement, and it was premiered at Eastman by percussionist Gordon Stout and the Ithaca College Wind Ensemble (Stephen Peterson, director) who gave the first performance at the Eastman Theater in Rochester, New York, on February 6, 2002, with Donald Hunsberger conducting.

The composer writes:

The huge array of solo instruments in my Concerto for Percussion and Wind Orchestra is the result of a request from the soloist, Gordon Stout, not to limit myself mainly to the marimba (of which he is, of course, a famous exponent) but instead to range widely across all the percussion families. There are a number of timbral groupings: wood and drum sounds in the first movement, set against boisterous, big-band-like riffs from the ensemble, for example; or marimba paired with steel drum as the lyrical voices in the slow second movement. The third movement, a scherzo, uses only keyboards – glockenspiel, xylophone, marimba – and it winks broadly at Strauss's Til Eulenspiegel. The fourth movement turns to solemn, metallic resonances – gongs, Japanese temple bells, almglocken (tuned European cowbells) – and it sets these against the ominous heartbeat pattern of the bass drum. This movement reflects the somber atmosphere of fall 2001 more directly than I ever intended. Ordinarily I am skeptical of musical responses to outside events, and I never planned to write a piece "about" the attacks of September 11; yet, as I was writing this movement I asked myself why the music seemed so dark, so serious, and only then I realized that the world had thrust itself into my music whether I wanted it or not. Hence the dedication "To the victims of September 11, 2001," added after the fourth movement was finished. The finale returns to the extroverted atmosphere of the first movement, with the soloist – now playing metal instruments that go "clunk" (agogo bells, Latin-American cowbells, brake drums, anvil) and "boing" (the spring from an automobile suspension) – trading riffs with the ensemble. The work closes with a return to the wood and skin sounds of the opening.


Hue and Cry was commissioned by the Eastman Wind Ensemble and the Cornell University Wind Ensemble. The first performance was by the Eastman Wind Ensemble on 31 January 2007, Cynthia Johnston Turner conducting.

The composer writes:

Mark Scatterday and Cynthia Johnston Turner asked me to write a four-minute fanfare for their fine groups. Of course I happily said yes, but instead of a fanfare Hue and Cry is more like a very short overture, in other words a "real" piece, complete but miniature. A slow introduction dominated by a lyrical theme (horns) soon merges into the main tempo, Allegro di molto. Several short ideas are heard in quick succession: scherzando arpeggio figures, a sparkling tutti texture, and a pealing brass figure (admittedly fanfare-like) culminate in a longer, main theme. All these ideas are repeated, reordered, and recombined, before the work ends by recalling the opening horn melody.