Upcoming Recital: Transcriptions for Horn and Piano

faculty-recital-poster-10-4-2016On October 4th at 7:30 p.m., my colleague Richard Seiler and I will be giving a faculty recital entitled “Old Wine in New Bottles: Transcriptions for Horn and Piano.” While fun and musically rewarding to prepare, this recital is also being given in preparation for a forthcoming recording project featuring many of the same works. Here’s the program:

  • The Maid of the Mist, Herbert L. Clarke (1867-1945)
  • Adagio from Clarinet Concerto in A Major, K. 622, W.A. Mozart (1756-1791)
  • Six Studies in English Folk-Song, Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958)
  •  Romance, Carl Maria von Weber (1786-1826)
  • Meditation from Thaïs, Jules Massenet (1842-1912)
  •  Vocalise-Etude en Forme de Habanera, Maurice Ravel (1875-1937)
  •  Fantasiestücke, Op. 73, Robert Schumann (1810-1856)/Transcribed and Edited by Kazimierz Machala

With the exception of the Schumann, all of the above were transcribed by me, and several have been published through various outlets. The Schumann isn’t slated to be on the CD; instead I have some chamber music arrangements that will be recorded in addition to the solo works. If you would like to know more about the program, I’ve included some notes below. I’m really looking forward to this recital as well as the recording project. Stay tuned for more details.

Program Notes

Transcription: The adaptation of a composition for a medium other than its original one, e.g. of vocal music for instruments or of a piano work for orchestra, a practice that began in Western music by the 14th century; also the resulting work.

~The New Harvard Dictionary of Music, ed. Don Randel

Musicians have been borrowing music from one another for hundreds of years. J.S. Bach transcribed Vivaldi’s violin concertos for the organ, and Franz Liszt transcribed Beethoven’s symphonies and Schubert’s Lieder for the piano. These adaptations served not only to enrich the repertoire for their respective instruments, but also to educate and inform them as composers and performers. None of the music on this program was originally intended for the horn, but it is my hope that you will still enjoy hearing it.

Widely regarded as one of the great cornet soloists, Herbert Lincoln Clarke performed with John Philip Sousa’s band, the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, and the New York Philharmonic. In addition to his long and illustrious performing career, Clarke is best remembered for his many compositions and Technical Studies for the cornet. Published in 1912, The Maid of the Mist is named for the famous steam-boat used for tours of Niagara Falls, and features some of the rapid articulations and playful turns of phrase for which Clarke was famous.

Dating from the final year of his life, Mozart’s Concerto for Clarinet, K. 622 was written for his friend and fellow Freemason Anton Stadler (1753-1812). Though the rapid passages found in the first and last movements of the concerto do not lend themselves well to even the modern horn, the gorgeous lyrical writing in the Adagio second movement does. Mozart clearly had a love for the horn, as evidenced by his four concertos and other solo works for the instrument. If the horn of Mozart’s day had been capable of playing such melodic material, perhaps he would have composed similar passages for it.

With his fellow countryman Gustav Holst, Ralph Vaughan Williams is often credited with leading a “Renaissance” of English music in the early part of the 20th century. Though he did make use of modern techniques such as polytonality, Vaughan Williams was especially inspired by English folk song and the modal melodies of his predecessors from the 16th and 17th centuries. Originally composed for cello and piano, his Six Studies in English Folksong have been set for many other instruments, including violin, clarinet, oboe, tuba, and horn. These brief but hauntingly beautiful melodies make excellent studies in both phrasing and tone production.

Though the title “Romance” does appear a few times in the catalog of Weber’s works, there appears to be no such composition for trombone and piano. Is it an unpublished work by Weber that was not cataloged, or perhaps the work of another composer? It is doubtful that the piece was even written for the trombone! Despite its obscure history, the dramatic melodies and quasi-operatic character of this Romance make it an effective and rewarding work to perform.

Jules Massenet’s opera Thaïs is one of the composer’s most performed works. It tells the story of Thaïs, an Alexandrian courtesan and worshiper of Venus, who converts to Christianity. Among the most recognized excerpts from the opera is the “Mediation” for violin and orchestra performed between the scenes of the second act. Though brief in length, it is full of lyricism and emotion.

A gifted musical chameleon, Maurice Ravel displayed equal skill with impressionist, neoclassic, and exotic elements in his compositions. Igor Stravinsky famously derided Ravel as “the most perfect of Swiss watchmakers,” but is in fact this precision, craftsmanship, and attention to detail that have made his works so memorable. Originally for voice, the Vocalise was commissioned by the Paris Conservatory and is patterned after the famous Cuban dance known as the habanera.

Originally for clarinet (or cello) and piano, Robert Schumann’s Fantasiestücke (“Fantasy Pieces), Op. 73 consist of three movements unified by motivic and thematic elements. Schumann gave the same title to three other works in his catalog, all of which have an improvisatory, fanciful character. At times dreamy and contemplative, at others fiery and impetuous, these pieces are both challenging and enjoyable to perform.

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