Looking for Some New Etudes?

While perusing the amazing resource that is the University of Iowa Horn Studio Site, I came across a recent dissertation by Brett Miller.  Dr. Miller is a member of the U.S. Air Force Band, Ceremonial Brass, and also a composer of music for winds and brass.  His D.M.A. dissertation from the University of Maryland is titled 45 Concert Etudes on the Themes of Richard Strauss, Gustav Mahler, and Johannes Brahms, 2007 (follow the link to download the entire dissertation). The passage below, quoted from Dr. Miller’s abstract, provides an excellent summary of the goals and methods behind this substantial project.

The composition of these etudes was influenced by Franz Strauss’ pedagogical study, 17 Concert Studies for Valve-horn after themes from Beethoven. Strauss’ etudes were designed as pedagogical tools to enhance his students’ abilities on the horn as well as to enable greater ease in the performance of the works of Beethoven. Strauss borrows themes from Beethoven, each of which is woven into an etude designed around specific technical goals. Each etude is designed as a concert piece, rather than a repetitive technical etude…Following Franz Strauss’ example, this project involves the creation of 45 concert etudes that are based on themes from the works of Richard Strauss, Gustav Mahler, and Johannes Brahms. Each etude focuses on particularly demanding technical or musical challenges that horn players encounter in preparing these works for performance or audition.

In the first part of the document, the author provides a brief biography of Franz Strauss, as well as an analysis of etudes 10, 11, and 13 from his 17 Concert Studies on the Themes of Beethoven. The rest of the dissertation presents Miller’s new compositions, picking up where Franz Strauss left off and going quite a bit further. Each etude is prefaced with a technical and musical analysis, and a detailed discussion of the excerpt on which it is based. As promised, Miller’s etudes go beyond the difficulty of the actual excerpts, with the goal being a more efficient, accurate, and musically convincing performance of the excerpts in an audition or performance. All of the major works by each composer are covered, and in fact this document serves very well as an introduction to several of the major orchestral excerpts by three of the greatest composers for the horn. Here are a few highlights from Miller’s collection.  Many of the more challenging works include multiple etudes dealing with different excerpts from the same piece.

Richard Strauss

  • Don Juan
  • Sinfonia Domestica
  • Salome
  • Till Eulenspiegel
  • Don Quixote
  • Death and Transfiguration
  • Ein Heldenleben
  • Horn Concertos 1 and 2
  • Alpine Symphony

Gustav Mahler

  • Symphony Nos. 1, 3, 4, 5, 7, 9

Johannes Brahms

  • Symphony Nos. 1-4
  • Academic Festival Overture
  • Concerto for Piano No. 2
  • Serenade No. 1
  • Trio, Op. 40

Though I haven’t spent much time with these etudes yet, I can certainly see their value for teachers, students, and professionals alike. They fill a gap in the horn’s pedagogical literature, and have the potential to become standard fare along with etudes by Kopprasch, Maxime-Alphonse, and others. Bravo to Brett Miller for a job well done!  N.B. As of this post, I have not been able to find a publisher for the 45 Concert Etudes, but I do hope to see them in print in the future.  [REVISED: The etudes are published and  available at http://www.brettmillermusic.com/horn_dog_publishing.htm and http://hornsociety.org/marketplace/online-library#ecwid:category=0&mode=product&product=6996941  Thanks to Ricardo Matosinhos for sharing this link!]

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This could be a missing link for some teaching professionals that would give competitive advantage to some future performing artist. As a studio teacher, I’m always looking for ways to enhance my abilities as a teacher. I hope this serves as motivation to make the etudes available for general and specialized teaching use ASAP.

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