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Composer Premieres Lincoln Highway Suite

Nolan Stolz's Lincoln Highway Suite (demo recording)

This summer, some people will celebrate the centenary of Lincoln Highway with a road trip. Nolan Stolzwill also travel the highway, trying to get orchestras to perform his Lincoln Highway Suite.

Stolz wrote the five-movement symphonic suite inspired by America's first transnational highway. One orchestra, the Dubuque Symphony, will give the world premiere of the Suite's middle movement -- "Prairie View" -- this Sunday.

In a recent interview with WNIJ, Stolz described how came to write the Suite:

"I was traveling Route 66," he says, "and I didn't know about the Lincoln Highway. I found a book and was looking at it and said `How did I not know know about this historic highway'?"

Stolz says he was looking for inspiration for an orchestral piece, "and I thought it would be a great way to represent this highway."

The first movement, "From the Hudson," begins where the highway begins in New York's Times Square. "There's elements of jazz and Broadway," he says. "It really captures the energy of the city."

The next movement takes the listener into the Ohio River Valley, where Stolz adds percussion sounds to evoke images of industry.

The third movement, "Prairie View," takes the listener through northern Illinois. Here the music gets softer and develops more slowly. Stolz creates a sense of open space by widening the divide between musical notes on the staff, particularly high notes played by violins and lower notes for cellos.

"So you have this sense of vertical space," he says, "but also horizontal because it takes a while for the next musical event to happen."

The next movement follows the road into the Rocky Mountains. Here the music sounds more treacherous, with dissonant notes and chords.

Finally, "Golden State Romp" offers a triumphant finish to the journey in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park where the highway ends.

"I should say," Stolz says, "one can perform the movements One through Five or Five through One. So you can perform it westward or eastward."

The entire suite is 25 minutes long with each movement lasting about five minutes. "It's more practical," Stolz says, "to have an orchestra play just one movement. That way it'll fit more easily into a program."

Stolz says he was "very conservative" with the choice and number of instruments, so the Suite could easily be performed by any orchestra. He adds he'd be happy to adapt the Suite for a concert band. One such adaptation will be performed on October 27 by the Omaha Symphonic Winds.

You can hear a digital demo of the entire Lincoln Highway Suite by clicking an audio link above.

Good morning, Early Riser! Since 1997 I've been waking WNIJ listeners with the latest news, weather, and program information with the goal of seamlessly weaving this content into NPR's Morning Edition.
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