Glass Bead Game, The

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James Beckel

James Beckel

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Subtitle: Concerto for Horn and Wind Ensemble, after Hermann Hesse

General Info

Year: 1997 / 1999
Duration: c 19:15
Difficulty: (see Ratings for explanation)
Original Medium: Horn and orchestra
Publisher: Jim Beckel Music
Cost: Score and Parts - Unknown

Movements (played without pause)

1. The Call & Awakening - 9:20
2. Father Jacobus - 4:56
3. Magister Ludi Coronation and March - 7:01


Full Score
Solo Horn
C Piccolo
Flute I-II
Bassoon I-II
E-flat Soprano Clarinet
B-flat Soprano Clarinet I-II-III
B-flat Bass Clarinet
E-flat Alto Saxophone
B-flat Tenor Saxophone
E-flat Baritone Saxophone
B-flat Trumpet I-II-III
Horn in F I-II-III-IV
Trombone I-II-III
Percussion I-II-III

(percussion detail desired)


None discovered thus far.

Program Notes

Kent Leslie, a French horn player, approached Beckel to write a horn concerto. Leslie gave Beckel Hermann Hesse’s The Glass Bead Game as material for writing the concerto, inadvertently making a mark in Beckel’s compositional process. Developing a composition from a primary source, using direct material to draw from, was a new approach for Beckel. "I write music best when it means something, rather than just sounds."

The concerto The Glass Bead Game, according to Hal Leonard’s reports in 2011 -- despite their initial trepidation -- the numbers of sold copies exceeds 800, and in a second printing! For a college-level horn concerto and the positive reviews from professors and performers alike, The Glass Bead Game is considered a standard in horn repertoire, beside that of the Mozart and Strauss horn concertos.

The orchestral version of the work was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in 1997.

- Program Note from Wikipedia

The Glass Bead Game is a horn concerto loosely based on the Herman Hesse novel of the same title. In the first movement, two main themes dominate. The work opens with a bi-tonal motif based in Eb Major and A Major. This musical idea is meant to represent Herman Hesse's existential philosophy about life which is reflected in his novel. Simply put, Hesse believed that man exists as an individual in a purposeless universe that is basically hostile. This conflict between man and his environment is represented by the juxtaposition of the two keys. His main character of this novel in fact succumbs to the cold waters of a glacier-fed lake at the end of this book. The other main theme is a leitmotif representing the main character, Joseph Knecht, and is first stated by the solo horn at letter A of the first movement. The dialogue of this theme between solo horn, flute, and piccolo was inspired by the introduction of the Music Master in this novel. Joseph Knecht meets the Music Master, who accepts our main character into the intellectual society of the elite Castalia.

The second movement is dedicated to Father Jacobus. While the first movement leitmotif for Joseph Knecht was based on fifths going up Father Jacobus's leitmotif is based on fifths going down. The second movement makes much use of sounds sustained into each other as you would hear in a great cathedral. The movement is meant to reflect the peace that Joseph Knecht felt with his introduction to history and religion.

The final movement is the most programmatic. This movement begins with the opening celebration of Joseph Knecht's coronation to the post of Magister Ludi. The celebration is heard at first from a great distance. Since Joseph Knecht is reticent about his promotion to this high post, the horn soloist, representing our main character, never plays the celebration march melody. The solo horn instead answers this march melody with protest. This opening section of the final movement grows to a frenzy, introducing us finally to the Presto theme featuring the solo horn. The theme from the second movement is briefly referenced at letter Mm as Joseph Knecht, now burdened with the responsibilities as Magister Ludi, reflects on his more tranquil past at the monastery with Father Jacobus. At the close of this movement, the drowning sequence is loosely reflected in the music when the opening themes of the third movement return as our main character drowns.

Opening thematic material to the second movement is used as transition to return us to the original Joseph Knecht leitmotif in this final movement. Programmatically this is referencing the end of this great novel where Joseph Knecht's student, Tito, is now sitting on the lake's shore in shock over the death of his teacher, Joseph Knecht. But our main character lives on in Tito's mind as a wonderful teacher and mentor.

Nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, The Glass Bead Game was premiered by the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra on November 10, 1997.

- Program Note by composer


State Ratings

None discovered thus far.


To submit a performance please join The Wind Repertory Project

  • Valley Winds (Pioneer Valley, Mass.) (Brian Messier, conductor; Joshua Michal, horn) - 22 May 2022
  • University of Cincinnati (Ohio) College-Conservatory of Music Wind Symphony (Kevin Michael Holzman, conductor; Denise Tryon, horn) – 7 February 2020
  • Penn State University (University Park) Symphonic Wind Ensemble (Dennis Glocke, conductor) – 18 October 2019
  • United States Military Academy (West Point, N.Y.) (Tod Addison, conductor; Nicole Caluori, horn) – 16 March 2019
  • Wheaton College (Wheaton, Ill.) Symphonic Band (Timothy Yontz, conductor; Grace Garver, horn) – 2 March 2019
  • State University of New York, Potsdam, Crane Wind Ensemble (Brian K. Doyle, conductor; Lauren Becker, horn) – 19 April 2017
  • The Ohio State University (Columbus) Wind Symphony (Scott A. Jones, conductor; Bruce Henniss, horn) - 9 March 2017 (82nd Annual ABA National Convention)
  • The Ohio State University (Columbus) Wind Symphony (Russell C. Mikkelson, conductor; Bruce Henniss, horn) – 7 March 2017
  • State University of New York, Potsdam, Crane Wind Ensemble (Brian K. Doyle, conductor; Lauren Becker, horn) – 22 February 2017
  • University of Kansas (Lawrence) Wind Ensemble (Paul Popiel, conductor; Jeff Nelson, horn) – 23 February 2016
  • Indiana University Wind Ensemble (Stephen W. Pratt, conductor; Jeff Nelson, horn) - 7 April 2015
  • University of Northern Iowa (Ronald Johnson, conductor; Nicholas Wills, horn) - 4 October 2013
  • University of Alabama (Tuscaloosa) Wind Ensemble (Ken Ozzello, conductor; Charles “Skip” Snead, horn) – 25 February 2010 (CBDNA 2010 Southern Division Conference, Oxford, Miss.)

Works for Winds by This Composer