Lots of exciting things happening this fall as we begin a new semester and academic year. Instead of my usual “Semester Preview,” this time I’ll post separately about individual events as they happen. First up is my annual faculty recital on Monday, September 9, followed by a mini recital tour with performances and master classes at the University of Arkansas (Dr. Timothy Thompson) and Mississippi State University (Dr. Matthew Haislip). I’ll be joined by a great collaborative pianist, Justin Havard, for a fun and engaging program. It includes a bit of old, but mostly new, music for horn and piano. If you are in the vicinity of any of these performances we would love to see you there!
Here are my program notes.
As a musician, I look to recordings and live performances for inspiration. My first experiences with all of the works on this program were through recordings and/or performances by great artists. It is also worth noting that with the exception of Jan Koetsier’s Romanza, these pieces were all composed by horn players.
Nocturno, Op. 73, Bernhard Eduard Müller (1842-after 1920)
Bernhard Eduard Müller served as second horn in the Gewandhaus Orchestra of Leipzig from 1876-1920, and is most well-known today for his two-volume Studies for Horn, Op. 64. Biographical information is scant, though several of his compositions for horn and piano survive. The best of these were recorded by John Ericson of Arizona State University on his album Rescued! (Summit Records). The Nocturno, Op. 73 is a compact but well-crafted piece in a thoroughly Romantic style. The range and technical difficulties are modest, making it accessible to younger players.
Sonata for Horn and Piano, Gina Gillie (b. 1981)
Gina Gillie is an Associate Professor of Music at Pacific Lutheran University, where she teaches applied horn, aural skills, and composition. She performs with two faculty ensembles at PLU, the Camas Wind Quintet and the Lyric Brass Quintet, and is active as an orchestral and freelance performer in the Pacific Northwest. In addition to her distinguished teaching and performing career, she is an accomplished composer, and has received numerous commissions for solo and chamber works. Her music is published by RM Williams, Brass Arts Unlimited, and Veritas Musica. The Sonata for Horn and Piano was commissioned in 2017 by Steven Cohen, and is featured along with several other new works on his album Cruise Control: Horn Music from Five Emerging American Composers (Siegfried’s Call). Gillie balances tradition and innovation throughout this significant three-movement sonata, simultaneously paying respect to the great horn works of the 19th and 20th centuries, while displaying her own unique voice. The first movement, with its contrasting themes and sonata-form construction, masterfully assimilates the German Romantic style. An ascending sixth motive figures prominently, and is transformed in various ways in the following movements. Gounod provides the inspiration for the second movement, a Mélodie in the French style. Gillie is especially gifted at writing beautiful melodies, and crafts long-breathed phrases worthy of the French master. The ascending sixth motive from the first movement is transformed again for the rollicking finale, a Rondo in Afro-Cuban style. This challenging but idiomatic work is great fun!
Romanza, Op. 59/2, Jan Koetsier (1911-2006)
Though relatively little known in the United States – except among brass players – Dutch-born composer, conductor, and professor Jan Koetsier is well-regarded throughout Europe, and especially in Munich, Germany, where he served as professor of conducting at the Hochschule für Musik for many years. As a composer he devoted much of his efforts to brass and wind instruments, and seemed especially interested in developing the repertoire for unusual or under-utilized combinations of instruments. As the title suggests, the Romanza, Op. 59, No. 2 (1972) showcases the lyrical qualities of the horn. In this brief yet effective work, a contrasting scherzo-like central section is framed by a beautiful melody in the outer sections. The Romanza has been recorded numerous times, and an especially beautiful interpretation can be found on the album Deep Remembering by Gail Williams (Summit Records).
Reflections for Horn and Piano, Paul Basler (b. 1963)
Paul Basler, Professor of Music at the University of Florida, is one of the most well-known contemporary composers for the horn. His works have been recorded and performed around the world to critical acclaim. Reflections for Horn and Piano was composed in 2006, and is dedicated to Manuel de Jesús Germán. In the composer’s words, Reflections is “an intensely emotional (and personal) composition and can be considered the ‘sequel’ to Basler’s Canciones for horn and piano and Lacrymosa for two horns and piano.” The five movements each have descriptive titles indicative of style and emotional content, which span a wide range. Basler explores the full range of human emotion, including joy, sorrow, anger, and, ultimately, acceptance. It is one of Basler’s most popular works, and was recently recorded by Patrick Smith for the album Reflections: Horn Music of Paul Basler (Siegfried’s Call). Another particularly inspiring performance of this work was given by Gina Gillie and Richard Seiler in October, 2015 at the University of Louisiana Monroe.