James Chambers Plays the Ralph Hermann Concerto

To continue this series of posts on classic LP horn recordings is James Chambers Plays the French Horn, also recorded in 1960 and produced by the Grand Award Record Corporation.  James Chambers played Principal Horn with the New York Philharmonic for many years, and also taught at the Juilliard School and Manhattan School of Music.  The album is an eclectic mix of repertoire, including a number of pieces that were at one time popular but have become obscure over the years.  Here’s the complete list:

A. Corelli, Sonata in F Major; L. Mozart, Concerto; M. Bradford-Anderson, March, in Canon; M. Poot, Sarabande; R. Hermann, Concerto for Horn; R. Clerisse, Chant, Sans Paroles; L. Piantoni, Air de Chasse; V. Bakaleinikoff, Cavatina; B. Heiden, Sonata for Horn and Piano

One particularly interesting piece is the Concerto for Horn by Ralph Hermann.  According to the website http://www.horn-and-band.info/, the work was “The first full concerto originally written for solo horn with concert band,” and “was a collaborative project with James Chambers and the American School Band Directors’ Association.”  Looking at the LP notes, there is some additional information on the piece itself and the premiere performance.

This concerto was written for Mr. Chambers by the contemporary American composer, Ralph Hermann, and was given its first public performance at the annual meeting of the American Bandmasters Association on March 9th, 1957 in Pittsburgh, with the accompaniment being furnished by the United States Air Force Band. The Finale, which is recorded here, employs a two octave range, has an extended cadenza and calls for a high level display of French horn virtuosity.

On this recording all of the accompaniment is competently provided by a pianist, who is unfortunately not listed (from what I can see) anywhere on the record. The horn playing is, as one would expect, spectacular, especially for a recording made in the age before digital splicing. Chambers has a huge, liquid sound, and his tone quality and overall approach are still emulated by many players. The concerto itself is a nice piece, and looks very playable.  If you’re looking for something by an American composer to include on a recital or for a solo performance with band, consider the Concerto for Horn by Ralph Hermann. Unfortunately this recording is no longer in print, and the piece itself may be out of print too, although several university libraries probably have them both.  Here are two short clips from the Finale – the solo cadenza from the beginning of the movement, followed by the end of the movement, including a nice ossia high c# as the penultimate note.

Clip 1

Clip 2

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I played the Finale in my senior year in high school in 1960 and earned a 4 yr scholarship to the University of Montana. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to go to college at the time.
How do I find a cd of this album?

Hi Don,

I don’t think it has been released on CD. Our university music library owns a copy. You may be able to find a used LP on Amazon or another similar retailer. If you have a turntable and some basic recording equipment, you can make a fairly good LP to CD transfer.

That’s too bad as I don’t have a phonograph(does anyone?). I found a couple of people on YouTube playing it but they didn’t play it very well. To your knowledge is there any other recording of Hermann’s Concerto for Horn?

Thanks,
Don

Hi James,
Just wanted to let you know I’ve started work back up again on my website. I’m adding composition-specific information, so more is being posted about Hermann’s concerto. Take a look as it develops!

Hi Jeffrey,
I actually don’t own this LP – it belongs to my university – so I am uneasy with copying and distributing, even for academic reasons. Perhaps a local university library near you has it? You might also see if you can track down a used copy on Ebay or a similar site.

Best regards,

James

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[…] Following this concert I attended another lecture, given by Dr. Brent Shires. The title of his presentation was “Ralph Hermann: Pioneer Composer for Solo Horn and Band.” Dr. Shires provided some background information about Hermann’s Concerto for Horn and Band, and then performed the entire concerto with piano reduction. It was a fantastic performance, and this was the first time I’ve ever heard the piece live. For more information about the Hermann concerto and other solo horn works with band, make sure to visit Dr. Shires’s website, http://www.horn-and-band.info/  I also have a brief post about the work with some audio samples here. […]

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