Back in the year 2000, when famed conductor-pianist Daniel Barenboim was still music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, he led the group in a performance of Leopold Mozart’s Concerto for Alto Trombone, with Australia-born trombonist Michael Mulcahy soloing. Barenboim was impressed enough with Mulcahy’s playing to invite him to commission a piece on behalf of the orchestra.
“So I made a list of people,” candidate composers, Mulcahy said, “but then I got a little paralyzed.”
Some years went by — actually, something like 10 years went by — before a CSO administrator commented on the trombonist’s seemed suffering over the selection. He even gave him an out, saying he didn’t have to go through with the commission project. But Mulcahy redoubled and, a few more years later, finally settled on fellow Australian Carl Vine.
The result was the concerto “Five Hallucinations for Trombone and Orchestra,” which Mulcahy and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra premiered in October 2016, with James Gaffigan conducting. In 2017 he gave the piece its Australian debut at the Sydney Opera House, and in 2018 he performed it with the Redlands Symphony Orchestra in California as part of an international trombone festival.
Now, this weekend, Mulcahy will play the piece with a fourth orchestra, the collection of summertime friends and colleagues that make up the Grand Teton Music Festival Orchestra.