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Eric Ewazen studied music at the Eastman School and at Juilliard, where he has been on the faculty since 1980. His compositions have been commissioned and premiered by ensembles such as the Cleveland Orchestra, the American Brass Quintet, and the Ahn Trio, and he was composer-in-residence for the Orchestra of St. Luke’s. The third movement of his Symphony in Brass has been used by NPR as the theme music for its political coverage.

Ewazen originally composed this Quintet in 1989 with the heckelphone, a sort of bass oboe, as the solo instrument. (He has transcribed it for tenor saxophone as well as English horn.) Its three fast movements crackle with clearly directed energy and sophisticated motivic work. But the Ballade, spun with unselfconscious tunefulness in long lines, is the heart of the piece, almost as long as the other movements combined. The English horn’s cantilena, echoed and questioned by the strings, floats over a gently insistent rhythmic pulse with poise and purpose, occasional darker moments notwithstanding.

— John Henken