The ULM Horn Studio recently hosted Dr. Eldon Matlick – Professor of Horn at the University of Oklahoma – for a masterclass, recital, and several group lessons. It was a treat getting to observe Professor Matlick’s teaching, and to gain some insight into his pedagogy, which I wasn’t familiar with prior to this visit. It’s always interesting and beneficial for my students (and me) to hear familiar concepts explained in fresh ways. Here are a few ideas that stuck out to me from his masterclass and group lessons with our students:
- Articulation: “The tongue slices through, but doesn’t stop, a never-ending column of air.”
- Warming up: use air attacks, begin with mouthpiece buzzing, followed by leadpipe buzzing, then move to the horn.
- Right Hand Position: Put the right hand straight down the middle of the bell, as described in this video by Engelbert Schmid – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k6eDD_nz3xo
- Accuracy – problems often result when the horn is not correctly tuned. The ear and lips are trying to produce a different pitch than the horn is set up to play. This can be corrected by properly tuning the instrument. *See below.
- Playing the horn should be easy – this is a principle that was clearly evident in Dr. Matlick’s recital performance, which was wonderful. He never once sounded fatigued, despite playing a program with several big works including the Appel Interstellaire by Messiaen and the Sonata for Horn and Piano, Op. 178 by Joseph Joseph Rheinberger . His playing was heroic and very musical, with a vibrant, singing tone.
Speaking of his program, of special interest is the instrument he used for the Rheinberger, a Vienna horn built by Andreas Jungwirth. I believe this was the first time I’ve heard a Vienna Horn performed live, and it was done masterfully. Kudos also to ULM collaborative pianist Justin Havard for his solid work on the difficult piano part. To my ear, the tone of the Vienna horn is smaller and more focused than the standard double horn, warm and liquid at medium to soft dynamics, with a thrilling (but not unpleasant) edge when played loudly. Dr. Matlick also very generously allowed my students to play on his Jungwirth as well as another Vienna horn made by Yamaha during his masterclass. Though the Vienna horn is primarily used as an orchestral instrument in Austria, there are several groups around the world that promote and advocate for this unique instrument. The Scottish Vienna Horns is but one of many examples. With Dr. Matlick leading the charge, perhaps the Vienna horn is poised to become a more popular and viable option for American horn players. Time will tell!
In closing, be sure you check out Dr. Matlick’s videos on YouTube with the University of Oklahoma Horn Ensemble, as well as his two solo recordings on the Mark Records label: Bavarian Horn and The French Connection. All are excellent examples of great horn playing!
Bonus: Here is the procedure Dr. Matlick suggested for tuning the double horn. Fingerings in  assume a standard double horn, standing in the key of F.
- Play third-space C [T0] (adjust main tuning slide)
- Play third-space C  (adjust F tuning slide)
- Play third-space C  (adjust first valve slide on the F side)
- Play third-line B-flat , then match [T1] (adjust first valve slide on the B-flat side)
- Play fourth-line D , then match with [T12] (adjust second valve slide on the B-flat side)
- Play third-line B-natural [T2], then match with  (adjust second valve slide on the F side)
- Play second space A , tune, then match with [T12]
- Play second space A [T3], tune slightly low (adjust third valve on B-flat side), then match with  (adjust third valve slide on F side)
I think these are all the correct steps, but any errors are certainly mine and not Dr. Matlick’s. While this procedure is slightly different than the way I do things, it will certainly work, and is both systematic and thorough. If you haven’t tuned your horn this way before, give it a try!