Recording Review: Jeffrey Lang, One World Horn

I downloaded this new recording a few months back, but have only just now gotten around to writing a review. One World Horn: A Solo Horn Journey, features Jeffrey Lang, Associate Principal Horn of the Philadelphia Orchestra, performing a variety of unaccompanied works from around the world (cover image linked from http://www.jeffrey-lang.com). There are some great horn alone recordings out there – albums by Eric Ruske (Just Me and My Horn) and Michelle Stebleton (Marathon: Music for Horn Solo) immediately come to mind – so what makes One World Horn worth adding to your collection? One reason is that 100% of the proceeds from sales of the recording go to charitable causes, including the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen, Villages in Partnership, and the American Red Cross. To my knowledge this is a first for solo horn recordings, and although I don’t know Mr. Lang personally, he must be an incredibly generous and giving person to devote his time and considerable talents to a project of this nature. Another reason is the unique repertoire found here. There are several of the standards in the unaccompanied literature – Amram’s Blues and Variations for Monk, Krol’s Laudatio, Arnold’s Fantasy for Horn, Ketting’s Intrada, Kogan’s Kaddish, and Buyanovsky’s Russian Song – all performed expertly, with a great sound and rock solid technique. But there are also some pieces you probably can’t find anywhere else. In addition to the standards mentioned above, Lang has included original and arranged works from Japan, Finland, Cuba, Malawi, and The United States. Also very interesting (and new to me) are two movements from Charles Koechlin’s The Secrets of a Clarinet Player Op. 141 (also translated as The Confessions of a Clarinet Player). I was able to dig up a bit of information on the entire work on the Hanssler Classic website. Here’s a brief quote by Richard Kaplan, writing for Fanfare magazine.

The suite from Les confidences d’un joueur de clarinette (“The Confessions of a Clarinet Player”) is a set of vignettes intended for a film project that was never realized. (Koechlin was intensely interested in this new medium; as many readers will know, his Seven Stars’ Symphony has nothing to do with things cosmic, but rather portrays early Hollywood celebrities. ) Many are for clarinet unaccompanied; since the protagonist’s friend is named Waldhorn, several other movements are for clarinet and horn.

Of these non-standard unaccompanied works, my favorites are Gule Wamkulu (“Big Dance”) from Malawi, arranged by Mr. Lang, and a Contradanza from Cuba by Paquito D’Rivera. The Contradanza in particular shows off the effortlessness with which Mr. Lang negotiates the entire range of his horn (a Yamaha triple in this case, I presume), and it really grooves too! My only regret with purchasing this recording by digital download is not having access to the liner notes. It would have been very informative to have some additional background information on the less familiar works. If you don’t own any unaccompanied horn recordings, or even if you own several, be sure to check out One World Horn.

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