The first event I attended this morning was a very informative lecture by Dr. Joseph Falvey entitled “Baroque Horn Performance Techniques: Discussion and Recording Comparison.” The presentation was filled with lots of interesting historical information, but the central point of the talk was that when horn players perform Baroque music on a period instrument, they have three possible options when it comes to the out of tune 11th and 13th harmonics: “lipping” notes into place, hand stopping, and nodal venting. Dr. Falvey presenting convincing arguments for all three techniques, along with audio samples.
Next up was our performance of Gina Gillie’s To the Seasons for soprano, horn, and piano. I’ve written about this work before, but in short it is a substantial composition that is very rewarding to perform. Our performance was well received, and I want to thank my colleagues in Trio Mélange (Dr. Claire Vangelisti, soprano, and Dr. Richard Seiler, piano – see picture at right) for making the trip to Ithaca to perform with me. We shared the recital with Dr. Abigail Pack and Wallace Easter, who played a rousing rendition of the Haydn Concerto for Two Horns in E-flat.
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.
After this presentation I attended a very moving tribute to Dr. Virginia Thompson (1956-2015), featuring a new piece by Andrew Boysen which was commissioned in her honor. Titled “Virginia Songs,” the work was performed by a large horn ensemble consisting of members of the commissioning consortium, former students of Dr. Thompson, and current students at West Virginia University, where she taught for many years. It’s a very effective piece, combining traditional melodies and harmonies with extended techniques.
I spent a few minutes in the exhibit rooms this afternoon, and tried out a few of Yamaha’s new horns, the 671 and 871. My initial impressions were quite good. Both horns are very well balanced and even across the range. I have to say though that based on the two horns I tried, my preference was for the less expensive 671. Of course, more thorough playing on both models would be necessary to come to any firm conclusions. If you have the opportunity, try out both horns for yourself. I have more to say on the exhibits, and will do that in a final summary post at the conclusion of IHS 48.
The final event for me today was the evening concert, featuring Frank Lloyd, Pip Eastop, Leslie Norton, and Jeff Nelsen. I was running a bit late, and missed Frank Lloyd’s performance of Messiaen’s Appel Interstellaire, but heard the rest of the program. Pip Eastop – who I’ve heard many times on recordings but live for the first time tonight – gave a marvelous performance of the Brahms Op. 40 Trio on natural horn. He was joined by Susan Waterbury on violin and Xak Bjerken on piano. Performing this work on the natural horn adds an entirely new dimension, I think, especially in terms of the colors and potential for shading and blend. Mr. Eastop took full advantage of these opportunities, exploring a range of timbres from raucous to ethereal. Following this, Frank Lloyd performed John Harbison’s Twilight Music, which has the same instrumentation as the Brahms, but is composed in a very different style (he was also joined by Susan Waterbury and Xak Bjerken). The technical difficulties in this piece are substantial, but the players were definitely up to the task. I’ve only heard this piece performed live once before, about 10 or 12 years ago. The last work on the program was Sir Michael Tippett’s Sonata for Four Horns, performed by Lloyd, Eastop, Norton, and Nelsen. This unconventional work is challenging for both performers and audiences, but the effortless virtuosity of tonight’s quartet made it a pleasure to hear.