Divide —1999

Divide was commissioned by hornist Daniel Grabois, who presented the premiere with pianist Colette Valentine at the Third Northeast Horn Workshop, College Conservatory of Music, Purchase, NY.


  1. Low
  2. High
  3. Divide

Program Notes

The three movements are constructed from materials that suggest extremely different environments. The first (“Low”) uses only the notes on the lower half of the piano keyboard and is driving.  The second (“High) is calm and introspective, and uses only the notes on the higher register of the keyboard. The third movement (“Divide”) initially limits the piano to a repeated rhythmic figure on two notes, the E-F at the keyboard’s center, against which the horn sings, and then the roles are reversed.

ANECDOTE: The idea for the register restrictions in the piece came to me while driving to Philadelphia from home.  As I approached the southern end of Route 476, just before I bore left, as usual, to get on Route 95 North, I glanced up at the large sign which straddles the four lanes, marking the directional split in the highway: 95 North to the left, 95 South to the right.  I thought of the piano keyboard, of its northern high notes, its southern low notes.  Or was it eastern (to the right when looking at a map; to the right when seated at the keyboard) high notes, and western (left) low notes?  I thought about the roads not taken, literally (I almost never get on 95 South), and figuratively (important life-altering decisions I have made), and how those roads not taken almost invariably leave me feeling, as Robert Frost put it, “sorry I could not travel both.”

OTHER NOTES for the slightly analytically inclined…

“Low” is constructed largely of quintal harmonies in third relations, and a simple rhythmic process that shifts the placement of rests within a single motive.  “High” begins with an accompaniment figure centering on F with slight variations in rhythm, and later uses Schoenberg’s 12-tone row from Op. 23, No. 5, the first work to use such a pitch ordering.  “Divide” is driven by an ostinato of 3-2-1-5 in the piano while the horn melody moves only during the rests in the pattern.


Multiple virtuosi are represented on Riddles, a disc devoted to the music of Robert Maggio. Divide, played here by Daniel Grabois and Colette Valentine, is a welcome addition to the often-neglected horn literature.

Jenny Undercofler, newmusicbox.org, March 1, 2001