Thomas Hojnacki

Notes from the Composer

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Symphony No. 1 - Finale

Performed by the Prague Dvorak Symphony Orchestra; conducted by Julius Williams.

The first sound file is the ending of my Symphony No.1. The four-movement work lasts 33 minutes and is scored for a large orchestra consisting of triple woodwinds and a standard complement of brass, percussion and strings. While it is hard to describe four minutes of music in a few words, it’s even more difficult to describe four minutes that are the summation of yet another 30.  So let’s just say I was going for a feeling of great joy and wonder!  The recorded performance here is by the Prague Dvorak Orchestra. My colleague and friend Julius Williams conducts.


Performed by the Claflin Hill Symphony Orchestra; conducted by Thomas Hojnacki.

The second file is the last movement of my Concerto for Orchestra: Toccata, Tango and ’Toons. The three-movement work lasts 16 minutes and is scored again for large orchestra, my favorite medium. The performance here is from a January 2010 concert by my dear friends at the Claflin Hill Symphony Orchestra of Milford, Massachusetts (Paul Surapine, artistic director). It was my pleasure to conduct. 

Each of the concerto’s three movements betrays the influence of a master of a different 20th Century musical idiom.  “Toccata” employs the minimalist technique of composer John Adams. “Tango” is reminiscent of the music of Argentinian composer Astor Piazzola. “’Toons” is my homage to composer Carl Stallings, who created the scores for many of the great Warner Brothers cartoons of the 1930s to the 1950s. Stallings’s scores were often complex and made great virtuosic demands on the players. They were cut tightly to the picture, quoted liberally from popular song and classical music and made use of rapid stylistic shifts punctuated by sound effects. In the absence of the visual element, I have attempted to create a purely musical narrative structure that conjures the madcap spirit of Stallings’s scores. 

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Comments [43]


Extremely well crafted and entertaining music!

Mar. 20 2011 09:19 PM
Steve L'Heureux from Rhode Island

The closing minutes of Tom's Symphony No.1 evoke a feeling of majesty and triumph. 'Toons had me closing my eyes, envisioning the comically futile efforts of Wile E. Coyote as he devises increasingly elaborate schemes to catch his nemesis, the Road Runner. Great stuff!

Aug. 17 2010 12:26 PM
Bill From New Jersey

A beautiful piece, that like others brought back memories of the ultimate musical genius, Carl Stalling, mixed in with a bit of Dvorak. It is a pleasure to listen to a piece of music that is neither a somber reflection of death, depression or some painting,nor one whose whole premise is to prove some academic point of music without seeming to care someone is going to listen to it. Old fashioned? Nothing is old fashioned, if it is written from the heart, something more then a bit of new music seems to be missing.

Jul. 29 2010 01:53 PM
Paul Surapine from Milford MA

Tom was the first musician I met when I moved to the Boston area in 1990. (some marriages don't even last this long!!) It's been my privilege and honor to have played many of his compositions, and even to have had some of them written for myself and the Claflin Hill Symphony Orchestra, which I founded ten years ago with his help.
Tom brings a wealth of color and inventiveness to his works -- a modern composer with grounding in all that has come before him but speaking in a musical language that is current, witty, majestic and moving. In presenting his works to our audiences, we are reinforcing to them that the future of music is indeed the future and that new music can be accessible, educational, thought-provoking and cogent and pertinent to the world we live in right now.

Jul. 15 2010 10:49 AM
Gregory Fritze

The Finale of Symphony 1 is a very rhythmically spirited work exhibiting the orchestra in a very fresh way. I especially enjoy the canonic writing in the brass.

Jul. 12 2010 02:08 PM
Tom Petteruti from Rhode Island

Wow! This music magically transported me back in time to when I was a kid watching those great Warner Bros cartoons featuring the orchestrations of Carl Stallings. Even back then I felt the music was special and so is this! Tom, you really captured the spirit, musicality, whimsy, and virtuosity of this lost art in animated film scoring which we no longer get to hear. The orchestra did a wonderful job performing it, and it was recorded quite nicely as well. I LOVE it!

Jul. 09 2010 08:09 AM
Tim Dacey

Both pieces use all the resources of the orchestra with energy and verve -- and Toons made me laugh out loud.

Jul. 05 2010 08:21 PM
Judy Kennedy from North Conway NH

Tom's "At-Home Concerts" for Mountain Top Music Center and School are enormous North Country favorites, and he's developed quite a "fan club" up here. Not only is he a superb musician and composer, but he's a most engaging performer too who holds his audience with his interesting commentary as well as his music. He's due back up here in September, and we are all looking forward to this year's visit.

Jul. 05 2010 03:21 PM

WOW, I love these compositions! Fun, expressive, eloquent and exciting writing. Keeps you on your toes...coming from someone who grew up immersed in a family of professional symphony musicians and went to a LOT of symphony concerts, I think Hojnacki's pieces will more than fully captivate a modern audience. Bravo!!

Jul. 01 2010 10:05 AM
Karen Cameron from New Hampshire

I know Tom only as a jazz pianist. His giftedness as composer comes as a wonderful surprise. This orchestration is whimsical, festive and very exciting! I want to dance. I want to hear more.
Applause, Applause!

Jun. 30 2010 02:32 PM
Kelly Hojnacki from Commerce, MI

Very cheerful and uplifting. It makes you smile just listening to it!

Jun. 30 2010 11:02 AM
Kate from Boston, MA

One of my greatest frustrations with contemporary music is that the conception often outstrips the execution. Tom's music, however, is evocative and moving without reference to any kind of external program. In both examples posted here at WQXR, Tom demonstrates a gift for melodic invention and warm, rich orchestration. His music is witty and sensually appealing, the kind of modern composition that appeals to both connoisseurs of orchestral music and casual listeners who are fearful of the label "modern."

Jun. 29 2010 09:30 PM
Allan Chase from Boston, MA

I'm really impressed by these two examples -- masterful pacing, orchestration, and unfolding of material. They show a wide range of skills and ideas. Great work. I'd love to hear the whole symphony soon.

Jun. 29 2010 11:34 AM
Joe Mulholland

Big, bold, powerful, colorful, dramatic, exhilarating…is there anything you can't do? You handle the orchestral forces with great aplomb. The orchestra must love playing your music. I hope the Project 440 group gets that pleasure as well.

Now write another one!

Jun. 29 2010 12:16 AM
Ken Pullig from Boston,MA

The breadth of your musical imagination and skills as an orchestrator are uniquely wonderful.

Jun. 28 2010 11:40 AM
Pavel Farsky from Prague from Prague, the Czech Republic, E.U.

Dear Mr. Hojnacki, congratulations! Both pieces are great. As a professional musician, I really appreciate a sense of rhytm and melody which is used in an original and attractive music structure. Orchestration is fresh and colourful. Have you any compositions for the piano? I would like to play it. Best regards. Pavel F.

Jun. 28 2010 03:09 AM
Steve from 42°19′50″N 71°8′1″W (42.330664, -71.13364).

Very skilled control of development and a broad stylistic palette. Excellent!

Jun. 26 2010 10:44 PM
Elmer Fudd from The 25th Frame

Tom wheely went out on a whimb with this wacky musical womancing of the wich, wich, motivic twaditions so often missing in today's cartoon culture so wife with psuedo-hipness and pwetense!

Jun. 26 2010 02:06 PM
Omar Thomas

What imagination and whimsy!! Fantastic, Tom!!! =D

Jun. 26 2010 12:46 PM
Scott McCormick from Plainville, MA

Great compositional skill in action!

Jun. 26 2010 11:14 AM
jane akiba from boston, ma

as a non-musician, i am so amazed by tom's accomplishments and his hard work ethics that make listening to him play just amazing. he is so well rounded as both a jazz and classical pianist. would love to hear the whole version of " toons". tom, you deserve all that you are awarded. discipline and love of your craft shows strongly in all you do.

Jun. 26 2010 11:03 AM
melanie campbell from new jersey

I love this piece its dramatic with a comic twist
congratulations !!!

Jun. 26 2010 09:27 AM
Alaia L from Boston,ma

high spirited, joy to listen to, adventurous feeling. wonderful!

Jun. 25 2010 09:40 PM
Janet Chwalibog from Brookline, MA

What an imaginative piece! Thank you, Tom!

Jun. 25 2010 03:51 PM
Kenn Brass from Greater Boston Area

Tom, you have both tickled my musical fancy and piqued my curiosity about your talent as a composer. I enjoyed listening to both pieces and would certainly love to hear them in their entirety. Please, keep up the good work!

Jun. 25 2010 02:11 PM
Pablo Vargas from Boston

Congratulations Tom!
Amazing composition and orchestration skills. Fun to listen and easy to follow.

Jun. 25 2010 12:28 PM
Matt Schildt from Alamosa, CO

Great music! Funny, heartfelt, and colorful - well done!

Jun. 25 2010 12:19 PM
Debby Larkin


I think this is wonderful. I love singing with you as you are such a fine musician and artist.

Best to you!!


Jun. 25 2010 10:44 AM
JM Cowen from Boston

What fun Tom! It is always a pleasure to hear what you write and this fits the bill of Project 440 perfectly. Your homage to Stalling delights the ears and the imagination.

Jun. 25 2010 10:17 AM

Excellent writing and orchestration with a funny and original twist.

Jun. 25 2010 09:31 AM
Kathy from Amsterdam, Netherlands

I admire the skill, but it is sooo old fashioned, it hurts!

Jun. 25 2010 02:47 AM

Way to go Big Tom Daddy. So Boss.

Jun. 24 2010 10:09 PM
Robert Torres from Boston

Whether he's improvising jazz piano or composing for full orchestra, Tom always amazes me with his knowledge and imagination.

Jun. 24 2010 07:50 PM
Lisa Caliri from Boston

I was in Prague when this work was recorded. It has substance and imagination. Also, Tom's composition has the quality to be attractive to listeners who would not usually

Jun. 24 2010 06:56 PM

I also found myself smiling several times during 'Toons. Very appropriate homage.

Jun. 24 2010 06:44 PM
Camille Colatosti from boston

Tom is a wonderful composer and this is terrific. Tom beautifully captures feels of wonder and joy! I continue to be impressed by Tom's brilliance--and by his passion.

Jun. 24 2010 06:39 PM
steven Kirby from Boston

Great piece...wonderfully inventive and orchestrated.

Jun. 24 2010 06:17 PM
Jagan Nath Khalsa from Millis MA

I am a founding member of the Claflin Hill Symphony Orchestra and have known Tom 15 years. He's a great composer and wonderful to work with. He understands musicians because he is an active player himself, a very capable pianist. I wish him all good fortune to get to compose for the Orpheus Project 440

Jun. 24 2010 05:37 PM
Margaret from Boston area

Tom's works have always grasped the complexity of "extended harmony" in such a way that brings great pleasure and appreciation. Great stuff Tom!

Jun. 24 2010 05:33 PM

I can just visualize Bugs Bunny getting into all kinds of trouble while listening to 'Toons. It's a really light-hearted piece and makes you smile! - Sharon

Jun. 24 2010 05:24 PM
Martha Warren

Hojnacki's melodies sing, and his "painting" with instrumental colors bring a joyful quality to these pieces. His music is filled with wit and romantic warmth. So much fun to listen to!

Jun. 24 2010 05:24 PM
Christine Fawson

Yeah Tom! This kicks ass! Nice "toon", lots of humor. Very clever, yet tasty. Lots of depth.

Jun. 24 2010 05:14 PM

Tom is a wonderful composer, full with excitement and youthfulness. I have often performed his works, and have always been amazed at his ingenuity.

Jun. 24 2010 04:34 PM

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