Bernhard Krol’s Laudatio for Solo Horn

In this post on the Southeast Horn Workshop, I mentioned that Krol’s Laudatio was by far the most popular unaccompanied work during the first round of the college solo competition.  It has appeared on numerous competition lists, including the International Horn Competition of America.  For such a popular piece – at least among horn players – there seems to be very little in the way of program notes.  Having performed the work several times, I’ve put together a few notes on both the composer and the piece.  Most of my information was gleaned from CD liner notes, as well as this nice biography on the Boosey & Hawkes website. According to this online Latin dictionary, definitions of laudatio include “praise , commendation; a testimonial, a funeral oration.” Additionally, Laudatio has close ties with the early Christian Hymn (plain chant) Te Deum Laudamus, and the opening line of this text is  included within the piece.  Though it may not be a literal quotation, the melody at this point in the piece is very reminiscent of Gregorian chant, a connection that many performers often miss.  For yet another view on this work, here’s a quote from the liner notes to Michelle Stebleton‘s (Associate Professor of Horn at Florida State University) new CD Marathon: Music for Solo Horn. The recording is fabulous, by the way! Although I couldn’t find an indication, I presume that the notes were written by Professor Stebleton.

Bernhard Krol: Laudatio (1966)

Laudatio, written for Hermann Baumann, opens with a motif which represents a spiritual question. What follows is a journey, a search for understanding. The question reappears many times, often following the nearly-schizophrenic emotional roller coaster of musical events.  Prayer ensues twice, the question is asked again in fragmented form, and an authentic cadence brings the listener to the final answer.  For most horn students, this piece is among the first unaccompanied works studied and performed.  It appears regularly as a required piece for competitions.

Professor Stebleton has clearly given her approach to this work a lot of thought, and it certainly shows in her fine recording. It is even more crucial in unaccompanied works for the performer to have a well-defined plan, from individual phrases to the work as a whole (a topic I plan to cover further in a future post).  If you are working on this piece I highly recommend listening to several different recordings, as Laudatio comes off well with multiple interpretations. Here are a few links to recordings.

Marathon: Music for Solo Horn (Michelle Stebleton)

Just Me and My Horn (Eric Ruske)

Horn Voyage (Zbigniew Zuk)

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