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American Overture

This is my latest orchestral work. It is a celebration of American music.

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About Larry

Baltimore City - Station North A&E District

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Grammy-nominee Larry Hoffman is an award-winning composer whose works have been performed throughout the United States and in Europe. While earning his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in theory and composition from the Peabody Conservatory, he received grants from the Fromm Music Foundation at Harvard and the American Music Center.  Upon graduation, Larry was the recipient of Peabody’s Gustav Klemm Award and Otto Ortmann Prize for compositional excellence.  Among his other works are Music For... more

Hoffman’s scores now part of the Blues Archive at the University of Mississippi

 I am truly humbled, excited, and grateful to see this happen. Many thanks to all who saw this through to the end... which hopefully will be just a beginning! I sent the Archive fifteen scores of pieces that were indicative of my blues/classical integration. We are hopeful that this will lead to performances of my music at and around the University.

Blues for Harp, Oboe, and Violoncello

Blues For Harp, Oboe, and Violoncello (1986) was my first effort to create a blues-inspired work that could distill and express blues essence via classical instrumentation and contemporary compositional technique.  The mission to put blues on the serious concert music stage was the primary force leading me to composition;  I was hoping that this "experiment" would be successful. 

The performance presented here (and on my CD) is the result of three extraordinary talents.

Thanks to CRS Records, my piece fell into the accomplished hands of cellist Bryan Dumm, Yolanda Kondonassis, and oboist John Mack.  Mr. Dumm is a well-regarded veteran of the acclaimed Cleveland Orchestra.  Ms. Kondonassis is a world-renown harpist who made her debut with the New York Philharmonic at age eighteen.  She is celebrated as one of the world's premiere and most recorded solo harpists; John Mack was hailed by the New York Times as "the dean of American oboists,"  regarded as among the top two or three in the world. 

“I should have had holes put in my shoes to create a more authentic performance," legendary oboist John Mack quipped to me before the Cleveland premiere.  

Needless to say, I was honored to include the artistry of these three stellar musicians on my CD. 

I am proud to say that Blues For Harp, Oboe, and Violoncello has proven to be my most- performed piece; one that has gotten the attention of fine musicians from around the USA and Europe.  The world premiere was performed by Pittsburgh

Orchestra musicians (who performed the work in PA twice).  It was played then in Cleveland, OH ;  Washington, D.C.; Stockholm, Sweden;  Jackson, MS; and,  last I heard, at the Breckenridge Music Festival in Breckenridge, Colorado.  I suspect that it was performed in other cities as well -- at least the musicians other cities have acquired score and parts from me with that intention!

STRING QUARTETS

String quartets are to me the most intimate of ensembles. Homogenous, each instrument speaks exactly the same language, but yet each   unique in tone color and range. The possibilities are endless, as evidenced in the great works of  Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven, and modern masters such as Bartok and Carter.  
"In a letter to the composer Zelter​ in 1829, Goethe​ described the string quartet as a conversation between four reasonable, intelligent people, and no one fostered that conversation with as much wit and elegance as Haydn."

  • String Quartet No 1. The Blues Larry Hoffman

    This is the work that marked my return to composition after a long absence during which I became a blues journalist and record producer. It was a wonderful leap into a music that had meant so much to me earlier in my life. I traveled the country, hearing and meeting bluesmen and women, writing about them, and sometimes discovering them, helping them jump-start a career. Along the way I garnered a Grammy nomination, and awards for producing and writing about the blues internationally.
  • String Quartet No. 2

    In my second string quartet I presented the blues in four keys-- first separately, then simultaneously--coming together in a four-voice fugue in which each instrument presented a blues sequence in its own key. It is rigorously controlled, presenting dissonant collisions, each resolving in a unique way. In the center there is a development section that presents some wonderful opportunities.
  • String Quartet No 3: Mo' Better Blues

    "String Quartet No.3: Mo'Better Blues" opens with a long set of bluesy variations, each unfolding in an improvisatory manner. Towards the center-end there is an atonal episode that is strong and declamatory , lending an air of strength and vigor to the affair. The closing unites both temperments.
  • Larry Hoffman : String Quartet No 4 : I. Dance II. Chill III. Get Funky

    In my fourth quartet I was interested in creating a string quartet that explored radically different moods. -- more free-form and exuberant than other of my works. The first movement is wild and exuberant - free and confident. The second movement, one of aching and pleading. -- bordering on the melancholy, and perhaps a reconsideration of the abandonment of movement I. In movement III a sweet consensus is reached: get funky and enjoy. And finally, a prayer.
  • String Quartet No. 5 / Through A Glass Darkly

    2020 was a very challenging year for most of us. In the midst of the pandemic, the unrest leading to unspeakable violence, economic peril and joblessness, there was also the bright light of hope that showed through the cracks in the darkness. This, my latest work, is the result of that dichotomy.
  • Freight Train Variations : String Quartet No. 6

    When I was fifteen, my folk trio had the honor of opening for iconic folksinger/ songwriter/ guitarist Elizabeth Cotten. I learned to fingerpick on guitar by learning this famous song from her first Lp record. This was one of the first songs I sang and played on the guitar using her famous "Cotten pick" finger technique. As the years went by, and I began composing, I badly wanted to create an homage to her and that famous song that had meant so much to me--- a version that might take its place in the classical repertory. This was the inspiration for this string quartet.
  • String Quartet No. 7 : SIMPLY BLUETIFUL

    In this quartet I tried to unite a blues ambience with an obvious romantic touch, one akin to a jazz ballad, or a sweeping nocturne. I extended harmonies in a traditional way, but one never found in blues.
  • Chimera Rag / String Quartet No.8

    I have always loved ragtime. As a student in the conservatory I was awarded a large version of the Scott Joplin stamp-- an event presided over by the Postmaster General, in celebration of the work I was doing with black music and young black musicians. I know how Mr. Joplin felt when his musical gems were considered merely confections, despite the composer's creation of operas, and his studies at a conservatory. I felt the greatness of those works and of the composer's spirit. I composed this in veneration of Mr. Joplin and his many works.

MSD Strong /for Orchestra

In remembrance of  the horrendous Parkland massacre. A dedication to the survivors' bravery and commitment --  as we remember and mourn the seventeen slain students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Parkland, Florida; February 14, 2018.

My orchestral tribute to the Parkland Five 

This is a programmatic work intended to recreate my musical vision of this event, separated into six brief movements: 

I. Prologue and Routine /  II. The Classroom /  III. Heinous Monster /  

IV. Dead Silence / V. Endless Grief / VI. MSD!: March For Our Lives.  

What is not heard in this replication is the chant that the orchestra players are to shout in the last movement : “MSD !…. MSD STRONG !, a rallying call of the school’s initials shouted to and from the groups of students who were marching.  

I was moved to compose this work as a response to the infinite sadness, empathy, and ANGER that I felt, having the privilege of standing with these proud and brave survivors that day in Washington, DC.. this is how I described it :

"Yesterday, at 8 AM I traveled by train to the “March For Our Lives” rally in Washington, D.C… I went there in support of the amazing young people who, it seems, might be this nation’s only hope to ever reverse the absurd homicidal direction that the lack of reasonable gun laws has allowed. This very intelligent and effective movement is now comprised of young people around the country who have suffered gun violence. It has partnered survivors of the latest horrendous massacre at Parkland, Florida with those of Columbine, Sandy Hook, Newtown, Pulse, Charleston, et al . It has also joined forces with youth groups in Chicago, Los Angeles, and other cities that have long been dealing with gun violence— or the threat of it— every single day. 

The speakers ranged in age from eight to nearly 20 years of age-- they were not speaking out of political bent or ego of position; they were angry and showed justification; they were passionate and let their passion erupt; they were politically aware of the difficult political realities that lay ahead, and showed a firm commitment to stay on course. Each had his or her own poetry and was unique.

I am hardly ashamed to say, that tears were in my eyes most of the day… it was deadly serious, endlessly sad, and yet excitingly hopeful.

Scattered, but in force among the crowd, were many students, both current and alumni— from Parkland, Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School ( “MSD!!” as they chanted loudly throughout the event..”MSD STRONG!!”). These were the young people who suffered the life-changing trauma and unfathomable grief at losing family and friends to the latest of heinous mass child murder in the United States.

The crowd of 800,000 people, of all ages, ethnicities, and denominations was overwhelming. We were all standing so close to each other that our bodies seemed linked as one, to the cause. 

I picked up conversations that led me to believe that some of the survivors were next to, and behind me.

Turning to a girl directly behind me I said, “Were you there that day?” She responded softly, “No, but my friend was,” pointing to a younger girl standing next to her. The second girl looked at me with tears in her eyes, baring a depth of grief I have never before seen in the eyes of anyone. As she looked at me—as if for answers— all I could say was, “I am so sorry that happened to you and your friends.” I heard myself say, ”..it is unspeakable”. A woman who I believe was her mother, and perhaps an affiliate at the school, locked eyes with me, echoing the depth of her daughter’s grief.  A young man was to my right, and it occurred to me that he might too be part of the Stoneman group. I asked him if he was at the scene, and he told me that he wasn’t in the same room as the shooter but down the hall or in another building close by… His eyes, too, welled up throughout the day.

I had precious little to offer … besides a continuing commitment to become more involved. More a part of this heroic, historical national movement —however I could—a movement that exposes one of the ugliest, gaping rips in the American texture. I said to an older African American gentleman standing next to me with his family, “Today we are all MSD.”

In remembrance of  the horrendous Parkland massacre. A dedication to the survivors' bravery and commitment --  as we remember and mourn the seventeen slain students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Parkland, Florida; February 14, 2018.

My orchestral tribute to the Parkland Five 

This is a programmatic work intended to recreate my musical vision of this event, separated into six brief movements: 

I. Prologue and Routine /  II. The Classroom /  III. Heinous Monster /  

IV. Dead Silence / V. Endless Grief / VI. MSD!: March For Our Lives.  

What is not heard in this replication is the chant that the orchestra players are to shout in the last movement : “MSD !…. MSD STRONG !, a rallying call of the school’s initials shouted to and from the groups of students who were marching.  

I was moved to compose this work as a response to the infinite sadness, empathy, and ANGER that I felt, having the privilege of standing with these proud and brave survivors that day in Washington, DC.. this is how I described it :

"Yesterday, at 8 AM I traveled by train to the “March For Our Lives” rally in Washington, D.C… I went there in support of the amazing young people who, it seems, might be this nation’s only hope to ever reverse the absurd homicidal direction that the lack of reasonable gun laws has allowed. This very intelligent and effective movement is now comprised of young people around the country who have suffered gun violence. It has partnered survivors of the latest horrendous massacre at Parkland, Florida with those of Columbine, Sandy Hook, Newtown, Pulse, Charleston, et al . It has also joined forces with youth groups in Chicago, Los Angeles, and other cities that have long been dealing with gun violence— or the threat of it— every single day. 

The speakers ranged in age from eight to nearly 20 years of age-- they were not speaking out of political bent or ego of position; they were angry and showed justification; they were passionate and let their passion erupt; they were politically aware of the difficult political realities that lay ahead, and showed a firm commitment to stay on course. Each had his or her own poetry and was unique.

I am hardly ashamed to say, that tears were in my eyes most of the day… it was deadly serious, endlessly sad, and yet excitingly hopeful.

Scattered, but in force among the crowd, were many students, both current and alumni— from Parkland, Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School ( “MSD!!” as they chanted loudly throughout the event..”MSD STRONG!!”). These were the young people who suffered the life-changing trauma and unfathomable grief at losing family and friends to the latest of heinous mass child murder in the United States.

The crowd of 800,000 people, of all ages, ethnicities, and denominations was overwhelming. We were all standing so close to each other that our bodies seemed linked as one, to the cause. 

I picked up conversations that led me to believe that some of the survivors were next to, and behind me.

Turning to a girl directly behind me I said, “Were you there that day?” She responded softly, “No, but my friend was,” pointing to a younger girl standing next to her. The second girl looked at me with tears in her eyes, baring a depth of grief I have never before seen in the eyes of anyone. As she looked at me—as if for answers— all I could say was, “I am so sorry that happened to you and your friends.” I heard myself say, ”..it is unspeakable”. A woman who I believe was her mother, and perhaps an affiliate at the school, locked eyes with me, echoing the depth of her daughter’s grief.  A young man was to my right, and it occurred to me that he might too be part of the Stoneman group. I asked him if he was at the scene, and he told me that he wasn’t in the same room as the shooter but down the hall or in another building close by… His eyes, too, welled up throughout the day.

I had precious little to offer … besides a continuing commitment to become more involved. More a part of this heroic, historical national movement —however I could—a movement that exposes one of the ugliest, gaping rips in the American texture. I said to an older African American gentleman standing next to me with his family, “Today we are all MSD.”

  • MSD STRONG: IN MEMORY OF SEVENTEEN SLAIN

    This is a work I created to commemorate the senseless slaying of seventeen students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School (MSD) in Parkland, Florida on February 14, 2018. It is dedicated to the fallen students, and to "The Parkland Five," who courageously stood their ground in the days and weeks that followed, and who still fight for what is right. In remembrance of the horrendous Parkland massacre.

Freight Train Variations : String Quartet No.6

When I was fifteen, my folk trio  had the honor of  opening for iconic folksinger/ songwriter/ guitarist Elizabeth Cotten.  I learned to fingerpick on guitar by learning this famous song from her first Lp record. This was one of the first songs I sang and played on the guitar using her famous "Cotten pick" finger technique.  As the years went by, and I began composing, I badly wanted to create an homage to her and that famous song that had meant so much to me--- a version that might take its place in the classical repertory.  Thus was the inspiration for this string quartet.  I hope that it communicates the beautiful simplicity and universality of the song  written by the late Ms. Cotten-- a true American masterpiece.

  • Freight Train Variations : String Quartet No. 6

    When I was fifteen, my folk trio had the honor of opening for iconic folksinger/ songwriter/ guitarist Elizabeth Cotten. I learned to fingerpick on guitar by learning this famous song from her first Lp record. This was one of the first songs I sang and played on the guitar using her famous "Cotten pick" finger technique. As the years went by, and I began composing, I badly wanted to create an homage to her and that famous song that had meant so much to me--- a version that might take its place in the classical repertory. This was the inspiration for this string quartet.

Antics for Oboe and Clarinet

  On my way to Austin, Texas, bound for a music festival, I started musing about a new piece.   I'm not sure why, but the concept of an extended duet struck me. The choice of clarinet and oboe seemed to follow naturally --   two voices I loved and admired :)  

Casual voices diving and twisting, meeting harmoniously then darting quickly away-- each to its  highest heights and deepest lows.... sweeping....

This went on in my mind's ear all weekend-- on airplanes, in hotels, coffee shops, and airports... until I was entirely intrigued.

When I arrived back home, I had a new piece!   

  • Antics for Oboe and Clarinet

    This piece came as a complete surprise while I was traveling to and from a music event in Austin, Texas. On airplanes, motels, coffee houses,,,,,,the prospect of counterpoint between these two related but entirely different instruments intrigued me. It was a long discussion :)
  • Pages of Anna

    This work was featured on my CD "Works of Larry Hoffman: Contemporary American Music." It is scored for Flute, Oboe, Clarinet, and Harp. It is a computer realization sequenced and mixed by award-winning composer Geoff Knorr. This music was engendered by my wrangle with budding love gone awry. Some people singled out this work as their favorite on the program.
  • Pages of Anna: score.JPG

    Here is a look at some pages of "Pages of Anna" :)
  • Works of Larry Hoffman .jpg

    Pages of Anna is featured on my CD: "Works of Larry Hoffman"

Blues Suite for Violoncello Solo

This work was inspired by the great unaccompanied cello suites of J.S. Bach -- works that have inspired me deeply.

Kristin Ostling , cellist of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, recorded this work and  premiered it in Baltimore on May 29, 2009. She graciously allowed me to choose the program. And so I was able to hear her masterful performance of Bach's first suite for Violoncello Solo  as well as Brahms' Sonata for Violoncello and Piano in e minor, with the talented Myriam Avalos on piano-- two of my favorite pieces of music! What a wonderful evening.

I composed this work in five brief movements, each of which was to present and develop a different aspect of blues music. Bach's suites were in my mind the entire time. 

  • Blues Suite for Violoncello Solo / Kristin Ostling

    Conceived in five movements, this blues-inspired piece is a homage to J.S.Bach and his immortal cello suites -- ever an inspiration.
  • Premiere of Blues Suite for Solo Violoncello

    I was thrilled to be asked by both Kristin and Myriam to choose the program. And so,that night I got to hear a favorite Bach cello suite, a Bartok duo, and one of my very favorite Brahms works: his cello and piano sonata in e minor! The performances were so inspired that it overshadowed how small i felt in my music among the truest of masters. It was a wonderful--unforgettable--evening!
  • Blue Mirror / for Solo Guitar

    This is my first work for guitar. It is another synthesis of my atonal voice, and original blues. It is ironic perhaps that I have been playing guitar for over fifty years and—besides some early blues instrumentals written and notated clumsily before I could read music, and some songs for which the guitar was mostly accompaniment -- I never really composed for the guitar. I am beginning to come to terms with my instrument in an entirely new way.
  • "Blue Mirror" performance notes p.1

    This is page one of the detailed performance notes
  • "Blue Mirror" performance notes, page 2

    performance notes page 2
  • "Blue Mirror" performance notes , p.3

    performance notes / page 3

Blue Mirror / For Solo Guitar

  • Blue Mirror / for Solo Guitar

    This is my first work for guitar. It is another synthesis of my atonal voice, and original blues. It is ironic perhaps that I have been playing guitar for over fifty years and—besides some early blues instrumentals written and notated clumsily before I could read music, and some songs for which the guitar was mostly accompaniment -- I never really composed for the guitar. I am beginning to come to terms with my instrument in an entirely new way.

From the Shadows: Music for Clarinet, Trumpet, Piano, and Percussion

Some of my works owe their inspiration to the simplest of ideas.  In this case I became intrigued by the timbral relationship between the clarinet and the trumpet, two instruments not usually paired.  As the duet unfolded, I heard, and eventually included, mallet instruments and piano, the latter used here primarily as a percussion instrument.  This sound was what I had heard in my mind; and the piece developed along those lines.  

Chimera Rag : String Quartet No.8

I have always been a fan of ragtime music, and  have especially admired the music of great American composer Scott Joplin. It always 
intrigued me that even though his music was used for commercial purposes by others, he knew that he was creating great piano "miniatures" that would stand the test of time and one day be recognized as great American musical masterpieces.

In writing about a ragtime compilation produced by a mentor of mine,  Samuel B. Charters, and played and recorded by his talented wife-- my friend Ann Charters (who recorded all of Mr. Joplin's  works), I innocently started to compose a rag for string quartet. 

It is a wonderful thing when something  simple ignites waves of ideas that come easily and gracefully to the page.. and that is the story of this piece!  

  • Chimera Rag / String Quartet No.8

    I have always loved ragtime. As a student in the conservatory I was awarded a large version of the Scott Joplin stamp-- an event presided over by the Postmaster General, in celebration of the work I was doing with black music and young black musicians. I know how Mr. Joplin felt when his musical gems were considered merely confections, despite the composer's creation of operas, and his studies at a conservatory. I felt the greatness of those works and of the composer's spirit. I composed this in veneration of Mr. Joplin and his many works.

Larry's Curated Collection

View Larry's favorite works from other Baker Artists