CD Review: It’s All Relative

I saw an ad for this CD in the May 2010 issue of The Horn Call, and I was particularly interested for several reasons.  First, I had previously met and heard both performers play (more on that later), and it looked like a cool concept for a CD of horn music.   Susan McCullough and Jesse McCormick are the horn players on this recording, and they are also mother and son.  Susan teaches at the University of Denver and plays with the Denver Brass, and Jesse is second horn in the Cleveland Orchestra.  The CD includes a few solo works, but the main focus, as the album cover implies, is on duets.  Check out their page on CD for more biographical information and a complete track listing for the album.  Also, the CD included a work by my  teacher from graduate school, Douglas Hill.  Going back to my first reason for being especially interested in this recording, in the summer of 2004 I had the opportunity to hear both performers at the Kendall Betts Horn Camp in New Hampshire.  They both sounded great then, and sound even better now!

I won’t go into detail about every track, but suffice it to say this is a fantastic recording.  The sound is both resonant and crystal clear.  In the duets blend and balance are superb, as one might expect from two people who have obviously played together for many years.  Some of the highlights are four Brahms songs arranged for two horns and piano, Hermann Neuling’s Bagatelle for horn and piano (performed by Jesse McCormick), and the Concertino for Two Horns and Orchestra [piano] Opus 45, by Friedrich Kuhlau.  The Neuling is becoming a more standard work in this country, and is quite a nice showpiece for low horn.  To my knowledge, this is one of the few recordings (the first?) by an American.  Jesse plays with a vibrant and rich sound in the low register, negotiating the runs and arpeggios with ease.  The Kuhlau is also a fairly rare work in the U.S., but perhaps this recording will help promote more performances of it.  Both parts are virtuosic, but the second horn is really the star, with rapid skips in and out of the low register.   Check out the recording if you haven’t already, it’s a great addition to any serious player’s library.

To close out this post I thought I’d continue with the theme from It’s All Relative – horn playing families.  How many full time players or teachers can you name with one or more close relatives who are or were also full time players and/or teachers?  Here are a few that come to mind.

[Father and Son] Forrest Standley (1916-1986), Principal Horn, Pittsburgh Symphony/Gene Standley, Principal Horn, Columbus Symphony (OH).

[Father and Daughter] Martin Hackleman, Principal Horn, National Symphony/Allene Hackleman, Principal Horn, Edmonton Symphony (Canada)

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I was alerted to your new blog through Horn Matters. Nice job! I look forward to reading more from you. Just an addition to your list of horn playing families- Gene Standley’s sister Susan plays 4th horn with the New Jersey Symphony, and his mother also played 2nd horn with the Pittsburgh Symphony for a few years.


Hi Julia,

Thanks! I’ve been following your excellent blog for a long time. Thanks also for the additional info on Gene Standley – what a musical family!


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