Fall 2016 Semester Preview

Chamber Arts Brass Quintet: Marilynn Gibson, Micah Everett, James Boldin, Jack White, Myron Turner

Chamber Arts Brass Quintet: Marilynn Gibson, Micah Everett, James Boldin, Jack White, Myron Turner

With the first week of classes at ULM finished, I now have the chance to catch my breath and post a few thoughts about the upcoming semester.

Ten Years of Teaching: This semester marks the beginning of my 11th year at ULM. I’m extremely grateful that after ten years of full-time college teaching, I still enjoy it! Though working in higher education is not without its challenges, I remain optimistic and excited about my career. I’m planning to post a few more reflections about this, but for now I’ll just leave it as-is. As a throw-back to my first year of full-time teaching, see the picture of our faculty brass quintet at top left, taken in December of 2006.

New Low Brass Faculty: Related to the above post, one of the reasons I still enjoy my job is the opportunity to work with faculty who are both dedicated and gifted. This semester we welcome a new member to the brass faculty at ULM, Dr. Jeremy Marks. It should be noted that our previous Low Brass professor, Dr. James Layfield, recently won a position with the United States Air Force Band in Washington, D.C. Congratulations to both Dr. Marks and Dr. Layfield on their new positions!

Upcoming Recital: On October 4th I’ll be giving a solo recital, collaborating with Dr. Richard Seiler on piano. It’s been awhile since I gave a strictly solo horn and piano recital, having performed with lots of other combinations (horn and percussion, horn and organ, horn and voice) over the last few years. Our program will feature all transcriptions and arrangements, the majority of them by yours truly. More on the program in a future post.

Recording Projects: Now that Solo Training for Horn is on shelves, I will be turning my attention to two recording projects. The first is a collaboration with ULM voice professor Dr. Claire Vangelisti for a recording of voice, horn, and piano works  by Eurico Carrapatoso. We’ve performed several of his very fine compositions over the years, and are looking forward to recording them for this project. Following that will be my second solo CD, this time a collection of my own transcriptions and arrangements for horn and piano and horn with other combinations of instruments. Both projects are still in the planning phase, and I’ll share more details as we move forward.

Orchestra Concerts: Though not a full-time orchestral musician, my work with the Shreveport Symphony, Monroe Symphony, and Rapides Symphony orchestras keeps me plenty busy. I feel very lucky to perform with these groups regularly, and to have the opportunity to play major repertoire with great horn sections. Some highlights of the 2016-2017 season include Brahms’s Symphony No. 3 with the Shreveport Symphony and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5 with the Monroe Symphony.

Commissions: Black Bayou Brass has been very active recently in commissioning new works for brass trio. Among these is a new work by Sy Brandon, Inventions for Brass Trio, and a forthcoming work by Gina Gillie. Brandon’s commission was funded by an eleven-member consortium of brass trios, and Gillie’s commission was made possible through a grant from the International Horn Society’s Meir Rimon Commissioning Assistance Fund. One of our trio’s missions is to promote and premiere new works, and we are very excited about performing these new pieces.

Upcoming Blog Posts: I have several posts planned for the coming weeks, including reviews of recent recordings and publications, helpful websites for practicing, planning recital tours, and various other topics. Be sure to follow Hornworld for the latest updates.

To close I want to wish all my students and colleagues a great fall semester!

Upcoming Conference: 48th International Horn Symposium

79941_photoAfter a very successful New Music on the Bayou Summer Festival, I’m looking forward to attending the 48th International Horn Symposium, hosted by Alexander Shuhan and the Ithaca College School of Music. As with last year’s symposium, I’ll be posting brief updates each day about concerts, lectures, and other events. The list of Featured Artists is fantastic as usual, including several performers that I’ve not had the opportunity to hear live. For more information, you can consult the official program book, which is available online. In addition to attending as much as possible, I’ll be performing with Trio Mélange on a Contributing Artist recital, and giving a presentation titled Solo Training for Horn: Exercises and Etudes for Standard Solo Repertoire. For more information about the ensemble and our upcoming performance, check out this press release, and for more details about the presentation, check out this post. Although I will of course talk about the forthcoming publication, the presentation will include lots of other helpful tips and hints for practicing some of the most common solo literature. On a personal note, I’ll be staying with relatives in Ithaca, and look forward to spending time with them as well as attending the symposium.

After the symposium I’ll be dialing things back a little bit, although I do have a few reviews and other summer projects in the works. Safe travels to everyone traveling to the IHS Symposium, and I hope to see you there!


Upcoming Performances: New Music on the Bayou Festival

Next week I’ll be performing in several concerts for the inaugural season of the  New Music on the Bayou Summer Festival. This event will involve numerous composers and performers from throughout the region and across the country, and I’m really looking forward to it! Here’s a brief description of the festival from its website:

The New Music on the Bayou Summer Festival is a chance for contemporary composers to work with professional performers during the rehearsal process and to have their new works performed by professional ensembles and musicians in an intense four-day festival. The festival features concerts at traditional and non-traditional venues. All submissions will be eligible for the Black Bayou Composition Award monetary prize.

Concerts will take place in several different venues, including concert halls on the University of Louisiana-Monroe and Louisiana Tech University campuses, a local art museum, an art crawl, and even a national wildlife refuge! The festival promises to be not only a great venue to hear new music, but also a tour of the area’s many attractions. You can peruse the festival website for more details on the above.

The festival’s organizers, Dr. Mel Mobley and Dr. Gregory Lyons, have done a fantastic job coordinating all of the various elements: composers, performers, venues, rehearsal space, etc. With rehearsals set to begin next Tuesday and the first concert on Wednesday, individual preparation by the musicians is imperative. I personally like the challenge of preparing new and unfamiliar works, and feel that all of the works our group will be performing are high quality (though sometimes quite difficult). Here’s a listing of the composer, title, and instrumentation of the works I’m involved with next week. You can follow the links to each composer’s website for additional information and audio/video samples of their music.

Each work presents some unique and rewarding challenges, but here are a few general observations.

  • Range/Endurance: New music can sometimes be unreasonable in terms of range and endurance requirements, but the above pieces are actually very playable. They aren’t simplistic by any means, but they do take into account the actual possibilities of the instruments. As a performer, this is much appreciated! Believe it or not, after playing lots of brass trio music brass quintet is a bit easier on the face.
  • Rhythm: This has probably been the most challenging (at least for me) in terms of individual preparation. A few of the pieces have lots of mixed/asymmetrical meter, and in past experiences I’ve found that rhythms which seem clear cut during individual practice can become much more difficult to “feel” during ensemble rehearsals.
  • Dynamics/Articulation/Timbre Spectrum: As one might expect with new music, composers often want to break away from the traditional sounds of a particular instrument or ensemble. None of these works calls for any unusual or rare extended techniques, but they do make full use of the dynamic and articulation spectrum, as well as multiple timbres (everything from ff flutter tongue to pppp stopped horn).

Other than Covering, which I’ve performed multiple times, all of these pieces are brand new to us, and we look forward to rehearsing them for the composers as well as performing them during the festival. If you are in the area and looking for something to do after Memorial Day, check out one or more of the concerts on the New Music on the Bayou Festival. On a larger note, if you are a performer, consider seeking out and advocating for new music. Working with living composers can give you a fresh perspective as a performer, which will carry over into other areas of your musical career.

Upcoming Brass Trio Recital

blackbayoubrassBlack Bayou Brass will be performing a faculty recital at ULM on Thursday, March 24th at 7:30 p.m. in the Emy-Lou Biedenharn Recital Hall. We’ll be joined by several guests for this multimedia performance, which includes the world premiere of a new work for brass trio by Roger Jones. In addition we’ll be performing two brief works for brass trio and piano (with Deborah McClung-Guillory, a member of ULM’s piano faculty), Abe Lincoln’s Songbook, by Douglas Hill (with Jay Curtis, narrator), and Capital Dances, by Steven Winteregg. Here is some more information on each work, adapted from our program notes.

Bandera for Trumpet, Horn, Trombone, and Piano, by Kerry Turner (b. 1960) Kerry Turner’s music is ubiquitous in the horn world, especially his original works for horn quartet.  He also has some very fine works for brass ensemble, including this trio for brass with piano. When compared to the brass quintet, brass trio is a more limited medium, but the addition of a piano opens up a whole new realm of harmonies and textures. Here are some more details, taken from the composer’s notes in the score:

In the summer of 1979, I was employed on the Mayan Ranch in Bandera, Texas, located about sixty miles south of San Antonio. It was there that I encountered all of the excitements as well as the hard work associated with ranch life. Cooking breakfast out on the trail for ranch guests, cleaning out ancient tarantula-ridden bunk houses, and chasing away rattle-snakes and water-moccasins were some of the typical duties I had to perform. It was here that I experienced the traditions of the Old West that were to later influence my compositional style. Bandera for trumpet, horn, trombone, and piano is a tribute to these people who keep alive the venerable cowboy life.

Bandera has been recorded on the album Unlikely Fusion.

Heart of the Andes, by Daniel Baldwin (b. 1978) Baldwin’s music is accessible, fun to play, and musically fulfilling. Inspired by the landscape painting of the same name by American artist Frederic Edwin Church (1826–1900), Heart of the Andes conveys the breadth and grandeur of the original work. The following information about the painting is found on the website of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/09.95/.

Fully ten feet in breadth and rich in botanical detail, The Heart of the Andes is Church’s largest and most ambitious painting as well as the most popular in his time. It represents the culmination of two expeditions to Colombia and Ecuador in 1853 and 1857, inspired by the writings of the world-renowned naturalist Alexander von Humboldt. Humboldt conceived the equatorial landscape of the New World as a kind of laboratory of the planet in which the range of climatic zones, from torrid to frigid, could be studied from the jungles at sea level to the perpetual snow of Andean mountains such as Chimborazo, in Ecuador, represented in Church’s picture. Within its classical landscape format, the artist literally attempted to convey the variety of earthly life, most conspicuous in the lush foreground. At its three-week premier in 1859, The Heart of the Andes was housed in a huge windowlike frame and illuminated in a darkened room by concealed skylights. Twelve thousand people paid a quarter apiece to see it in New York, whence it toured Great Britain and seven other American cities until the eve of the Civil War.

Originally scored for clarinet, bassoon, horn, and piano, the piece can also be performed by any trio combination with piano. The textures and harmonies are reminiscent of Eric Ewazen, and it makes a very nice addition to the brass trio repertoire. During the performance we will be projecting an image of Church’s painting onto the rear wall of the stage.

Capital Dances, by Steven Winteregg (b. 1952) Winteregg has written a number of works with horn, many of them for Richard Chenoweth. We’ve known about this great trio composition for some time, but haven’t had the opportunity to program it until now. This being a presidential election year, we thought the political theme of the work would be quite fitting. The following information is from Chenoweth’s liner notes to the recording Flights of Imagination: Chamber Music of Steven Winteregg.

Commissioned by the University of Dayton Brass Trio, Capital Dances was inspired by the cartoon dance sequences of political cartoonist Jules Feiffer. These dance sequences followed an imaginary performer through various dance movements accompanied by satirical political commentary and often ended with an engaging twist or thought. In Capital Dances, Steve composed a musical version of these political dances, attempting to capture the spirit of the artistic commentaries.

Sketchbook for Brass Trio, by Roger Jones (b. 1944) Jones has written two other works for our trio, and we are excited and honored to perform the premiere of his latest composition for us. Here are his notes about the piece:

Sketchbook for Brass Trio is a Suite of four movements designed to be performed as a whole or in various reorganizations including fewer movements if needed by the performers. The work, written in 2014 and dedicated to the Black Bayou Brass, in residence at the University of Louisiana at Monroe, is designed to provide ensembles with recital material that is colorful, playable, and interesting to the audience as well as the performers. Each movement is named with a sketch concept. No actual drawings inspired the writing. Players are encouraged, if desired, to find one or more sketches to display for each movement before or during the performance. It is the composer’s hope that this work will bring some pleasure to both performers and audiences.

A slideshow of various paintings and other public domain artworks will accompany this performance.

Abe Lincoln’s Song Book, by Douglas Hill (b. 1946) These charming arrangements of several of Lincoln’s favorite melodies are a delight to play, and are available for several different combinations of instruments. Hill writes the following about this unique work:

Abe Lincoln’s Song Book” was written in 2008 in celebration of Abraham Lincoln’s 200th birthday on February 12, 2009. This Brass Trio (Trumpet, Horn, Trombone) with narration has a selection of Abraham Lincoln’s favorite melodies. Lincoln felt a deep love and abiding respect for all kinds of music, similar to his extraordinary ability to feel compassion and respect for all kinds of people. These wonderful little songs capture a glimpse of his time and his place on this earth. Through Lincoln’s favorite songs we can celebrate the boy who became that most remarkable man who grew beyond us all as an example of a timeless, extraordinary human being.

We’ve chosen seven of our favorite arrangements for this performance, which will be narrated by Jay Curtis, General Manager of KEDM Public Radio in Monroe. To hear an excerpt from the piece, see the video below, which features the Contrapunctus Brass Trio with the composer narrating.

We hope that you can join us for this concert!


Semester Preview

calendarAlthough classes here just resumed last week, things are already in full swing, and this promises to be another exciting spring semester. As usual, I am looking forward to a variety of performances and other activities with my students and colleagues. Rather than list every single upcoming performance and project, I thought it would make more sense to mention a few of the highlights for each month. More details coming in future posts!


  • Recruiting tour with Black Bayou Brass



  • Black Bayou Brass Faculty Recital: This program on March 24th will feature a number of newer works for brass trio and brass trio with piano, including the world premiere of Sketchbook for Brass Trio by Roger Jones
  • Palm Sunday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday performances


  • Northeast Louisiana Horn Ensemble Concert
  • Canadian Brass Concert: The world-renowned brass quintet will be giving a free concert in Shreveport, and our studio will be making a short road trip for the performance.
  • Performance of Paul Basler’s Missa Kenya with the Monroe Symphony Chorus: It’s been a few years since I last performed this substantial piece, and I’m looking forward to doing it again!

Recurring events each month include performances with the Shreveport Symphony Orchestra and Monroe Symphony Orchestra, who are performing lots of great repertoire. In addition, I anticipate finishing up work on Solo Training for Horn, my second publication for Mountain Peak Music. This companion to Solo Duet Training will contain exercises and etudes for one horn based on several solo works not covered in the first book. I have about 50% of the material prepared, and am on track to finish in April or early May. Including time for feedback and revisions, I hope to have the book ready (or nearly ready) by the 48th International Horn Symposium.

Best wishes to all my colleagues for a great semester!

Horn Symposium Update No. 5

IMG_0946Today, my last day at the 47th International Horn Symposium, was certainly memorable. I’ll post again in a few days with summary comments about the entire week I’ve spent here in Los Angeles, but I also wanted to write a few things about today in particular while they were fresh in my mind. Here we go.

  • Lecture – An Introduction to Solo Duet Training for Horns My presentation went very well, I thought, and had good attendance. The duets seem to be interesting to a wide range of horn players, which was definitely my intention. Thanks again to Gina Gillie for volunteering to demonstrate some of the duets with me.
  • Recital – Denise Tryon and Stefan Dohr This was my first time hearing Denise Tryon perform live, and her playing was superb. She premiered several new compositions that she recently commissioned, as well as the Neuling Bagatelle. She shared the recital with Stefan Dohr, who I have had the opportunity to hear multiple times this week, first on the Schumann Konzerstuck, then in the Berlin Philharmonic Horn Quartet, and on two solo recitals. Rarely have I heard a horn played with so many colors, contrasts and varieties of shading and nuance. His playing is incredibly interesting to listen to!
  • Recital – Chamber and Solo Music I attended this performance primarily to support my colleague and friend Gina Gillie, but I also heard some great playing by the other performers on the program. It was an interesting mix of the following: a familiar work; Mozart Horn Quintet (Emily Reppun, horn); an old work in a new guise; Bach’s Chaconne from the Violin Partita No. 2/arr. by David Jolley for brass trio (Tawnee Pumphrey, horn); original contemporary works, including two selections from Ricardo Matosinhos’s Low Horn Etudes (Marc Gelfo, horn) and Gina Gillie’s The Great Migration for Two Horns and Piano (Gina Gillie and Jeffrey Snedeker, horn). Though all of the performances were pretty solid, I especially enjoyed hearing the new works performed by Gelfo, Gillie, and Snedeker. There was a freshness and energy about their playing that really made these works stand out.
  • Evening Concert – A Sojurn, A Celebration, and A Farewell: A Night Honoring the American Horn Quartet I could write a lot about this evening’s performance, the final live concert by the AHQ, but I will try to keep my comments brief. I’ve written about the group before here, so if you would like more information please follow the link. For many reasons this was a very important and special concert, and the AHQ rose to the occasion with a brilliant performance featuring new and old selections from the group’s repertoire. The emotion and energy they brought to the stage was heightened, and it came across to the audience, who gave the group an extended ovation. They played two encores, and I think their second selection, an arrangement of Carly Simon’s “Nobody Does it Better,” aptly sums up the entire program and career of this singular ensemble.

I will be leaving Los Angeles tomorrow, but the sounds, emotions, and other experiences from this week will stay with me a long time. As always, my thanks go out to Annie Bosler and Andrew Bain for putting together a fantastic symposium. [Photos above: Interior of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, venue for the AHQ’s final concert, and a picture of a lit building in downtown Los Angeles.)

Horn Symposium Update No. 1

After traveling to Los Angeles yesterday, today was my first full day at the 47th International Horn Symposium, hosted by Andrew Bain and Annie Bosler at the Colburn School. I plan to post daily updates to this website, and while these can’t provide a complete picture, hopefully they will at least give a general sense of the wide variety of events taking place this week.

General Thoughts

  • My general impression upon arriving at the Colburn School was that the symposium was in full swing! I found out at the registration desk that there were over 600 horn players in attendance already. The official registration numbers are not in yet, but suffice it to say that this year’s symposium is very well attended!
  • The facilities, staff, and overall organization at the Colburn School have been fantastic so far. Bravo to hosts Bosler and Bain for putting together a terrific week of lectures, concerts, master classes, and other activities. Everything I’ve attended thus far has run very smoothly, with the transitions between events happening quickly and seamlessly. This is not always the case at large conferences.
  • While a majority of the events at the symposium are held on the Colburn campus, a few concerts will IMG_0917take place in the surrounding area: Disney Concert Hall (seen from my dorm window in the picture at right), The Hollywood Bowl, and other assorted venues. For someone not used to negotiating travel in a large city, this can be a little daunting. However, the symposium hosts have gone above and beyond to ensure that plenty of information is available for those who are unsure of how to get around.
  • This is a very tech savvy symposium, with a great website and several events being live-streamed at http://ihs-live.com.
  • Travel – my experience getting to this year’s symposium was pretty good. Air travel can be challenging with a musical instrument, but I’ve had success with a Marcus Bonna ultralight case. Though this “soft top” case doesn’t offer the same protection as a completely fiber glass one, it does have the advantage of being able to fit either under the seat or in the overhead compartment of many small commercial aircraft, including the Embraer ERJ 145 and similar.

What I did Today

Choosing which concerts and events to attend at an IHS symposium is like picking a meal from a menu filled with only your favorite dishes. There is no way to fit in everything, even though all of the choices look appealing. That being said, I tried to attend a variety of events today, choosing to leave some events a few minutes early to sneak into others. Here’s a rundown on what I attended today, with brief summaries.

  • Lecture: Combining Modern Acoustics: A Horn Player’s Experience and Craftsmanship at Horn Making (Engelbert Schmid) Since I play a Schmid double horn, I was very interested to attend Herr Schmid’s presentation. It was fascinating to hear how his philosophy on horn playing and building has influenced his horn designs over the years. Though others may disagree with his views on horn sound, weight, and general design, I think we could all agree that he executes his horn designs with precision, confidence, and artistry.
  • Lecture: Time Spaces/Sound Spaces/Harmonielehre (Randall Faust) This interactive session was presented by my friend and colleague Dr. Randall Faust of Western Illinois University. Using his own etudes as demonstration materials, Dr. Faust explained various ways that horn players can improve rhythmic and pitch accuracy.
  • Lecture: Low-Horn Playing in a Major Orchestra (Daniel Katzen) This was a very interesting talk, presented by Daniel Katzen, former second horn of the Boston Symphony, and now on the faculty at the University of Arizona. Having never met Mr. Katzen, I wasn’t sure what to expect. He began his session by playing a portion of a Bach Cello Suite in the original key. His playing in the low register was expressive, fluid, and quite impressive! He followed up with some anecdotes and helpful hints based on his 40 year career as an orchestral musician. In addition to being a remarkable horn player Mr. Katzen also has a keen sense of humor!
  • Performance: World Premiere of Gary Schocker’s In Arkadia: Our afternoon performance of Gary Schocker’s In Arkadia for Horn and Harp was very well received, and I’m excited that so many seemed to enjoy the piece. Several people spoke with me after the performance, and expressed interest in performing it themselves. Thanks again to composer Gary Schocker, and to the IHS Meir Rimon Commissioning Assistance Fund for helping to make this performance possible!
  • Evening Concert: Frank Lloyd, Jeff Nelsen, Gail Williams, Julie Landsman, Jennifer Montone, Tim Jones, and more! Today finished up with a concert featuring some of the stars of the horn world, playing a variety of virtuosic music. It was particularly interesting to hear so many different sound concepts, ranging from big and warm to clear and distinct. I heard several pieces which were new to me on the first half of the program, including James Stephenson’s Sonata for Horn and Piano (performed by Gail Williams and Kay Kim), and David Ludwig’s Six Haikus for Horn and Piano (performed by Jennifer Montone and Jennie Jung). Though I would have liked to stay for the entire concert, I was already exhausted from a long day and decided to head back to my room at intermission. The upside of leaving a bit early is that I had time to put together today’s report.

Tomorrow will be another busy day, full of many more exciting events. Highlights for me will be checking out some of the exhibit rooms, and attending the LA Philharmonic concert at the Hollywood Bowl. Stay tuned for more updates!

Upcoming Presentation: An Introduction to Solo Duet Training for Horns

[This is the third and final post in a series related to events at the upcoming 47th International Horn Symposium. You can read the first one here, and the second one here.]

I will round out my week at the 47th International Horn Symposium with a presentation titled “An Introduction to Solo Duet Training for Horns.” In addition to providing some background and more information about my new book from Mountain Peak Music, I’ll also demonstrate several excerpts, assisted by Dr. Gina Gillie from Pacific Lutheran University. Here’s an overview of the main topics to be covered in the lecture.

  • What is Solo Duet Training for Horns?
  • Pedagogical Duets: A Brief Historical Background
  • Contemporary Pedagogical Duets
  • Creating Solo Duet Training for Horns, with Demonstrations
  • Suggestions for Use, Other Comments

My goal for this presentation is to hopefully go beyond just plugging the new book – although I will have a few copies for sale afterwards! Duet playing has a long history in horn pedagogy, and I think attendees will come away with a better understanding of the history and practical applications of these materials, both past and present. There are lots of great online resources with sheet music and background information on historical horn duets, including the PDF library at Horn Matters and the horn page at IMSLP. In addition to these, one other site I plan to mention is “Plays Well with Others: Duets in Instrumental Treatises,” an online exhibit at the Yale University Music Library (curated by Eva M. Heater). If you haven’t visited this exhibit yet, make sure to check it out because it’s really well done!

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, creating these duets was a great learning experience, and at the very least I want to share some of the information gleaned along the way. The presentation handout will contain lots of examples, including some free samples from the book and suggestions for creating your own duets.

The presentation is scheduled for Friday, August 7th at 9:30 a.m. in the Grand Rehearsal Hall at the Colburn School. I’m really looking forward to presenting, and hope that you can join us. To close out this post, here’s a video demonstrating excerpts from a couple of the duets.

Review: Songs of Love, War and Melancholy/Mozart: Stolen Beauties

songsoflovegallaycoverI recently received two wonderful new discs for review from Anneke Scott, a phenomenal performer on both natural and valved horns. Scott serves as principal horn of the Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique and The English Baroque Soloists, and also performs frequently as a soloist and chamber musician. In addition to her busy performing schedule, she has also found the time to record several albums of music by the great 19th-century horn virtuoso Jacques-François Gallay. The third and final volume in this series is titled Songs of Love, War and Melancholy: The operatic fantasias of Jacques-François Gallay (read a review of the second album here.) As in her earlier Gallay recordings, Scott’s natural-horn playing is expressive, athletic, and robust; in short, very impressive! She negotiates even the most difficult passages on the natural horn with beguiling ease. The selections on this disc belong to a repertoire that was extremely popular during Gallay’s day, but is less known to modern horn players. Here’s a brief quote from Scott’s liner notes, which are copious and very informative.

During this period the opera fantasia offered virtuoso musicians the opportunity to demonstrate a number of aspects of their playing that were viewed as highly desirable by their audiences. The choice of themes, especially if Italian in origin, was à la mode and their settings offered the musician the opportunity demonstrate his amazing skills both in performing a melody in a vocal style as well as showing off with spectacular embellishments.

I think the same holds true today for these works, though they do contain plenty of “real” music, and not just virtuosic display. It is also interesting that while Gallay’s Op. 27 Preludes and Op. 57 2nd Horn Studies have become a standard part of the modern horn player’s curriculum, these equally (if not more so) substantial pieces remain more or less unknown. I was familiar with operatic fantasias for horn, mainly through Thomas Bacon’s edition and recording of C.D. Lorenz’s Fantasie, Op. 13, but I knew very little about Gallay’s contributions to the genre. One factor that probably contributes to this disparity is the difficulty in tracking down modern editions of these works. The Op. 46 Fantaisie sur ‘L’elisir d’amore’ can be found on IMSLP, and Op. 49 is available through Koebl, but I was unable to find either public domain or commercial editions of the other works. I contacted Ms. Scott, and she quickly responded with the following information.

Now, all the Gallay pieces are available but right now it’s a bit tricky. I published them as part of the crowdfunding for the original disc. (They’re all here: http://www.plumstead-peculiars.com/Index.html). But just what with one thing and another haven’t had the chance to set up selling myself. They will be available from www.corniworld.com (Sheet music) and www.devinemusic.com (downloads) I think from July onwards.

So, it looks like new editions of these will be available very soon. These are lovely pieces – especially the three works for horn, voice, and soprano – and would make excellent editions to any recital.

stolenbeautiescoverThe second recording for review today is Mozart: Stolen Beauties, a collaboration between Anneke Scott and the period instrument ensemble Ironwood. Here’s a brief introduction to the album, again from Scott’s liner notes.

In this disc we take as our central point one of Mozart’s most memorable works for horn – the Quintet in E-flat major, KV407. Rather than choosing the more common path of combining this work with a number of other late 18th- and early 19th-century works for horn and strings…we have illustrated the various ways in which Mozart’s works have been ‘appropriated’ for the horn, or, in one case how Mozart ‘appropriated’ a work for himself.

The result of this novel approach to programming is an album full of obscure, but nonetheless beautiful, works for horn and various combinations of strings and piano. The exception is of course Mozart’s well-known Quintet, but the interpretation recorded here makes for very enjoyable listening as well. There is a freshness and presence to this album that rivals anything I’ve heard from modern instruments. Like the Gallay recordings, the liner notes are meticulously researched, yet pleasant and easy to read. Horn players will be especially interested in the recording of Michael Haydn’s Romance in A-flat major, which bears a striking resemblance to the Romanza movement from Mozart’s K. 447 concerto. Scott’s explanation and subsequent thesis regarding this peculiar work are quite convincing. I must say that after listening to both works back to back the Haydn seems more musically interesting! The music on this recording is a little more difficult to track down than the Gallay disc. Here are some additional details from Ms. Scott.

For the music on the Mozart disc it’s a bit more tricky. The Mozart quintet is quite easy to get hold of. I thought the Michael Haydn was as well but now looking for it it seems more tricky. We used a copy of the original edition – maybe I should do an edition of that myself? The Punto duets I found in a library in Russia and did my own edition which again I should make available through Plumstead Peculiars. I did the same with the Anon variation – these are available from Tanglewind Music – http://www.tanglewindmusic.com/Site/Historical_%26_Urtext.html. They’ve got the variations down as being by Puzzi which is a misreading of the manuscript, also the extra variation is missing from this edition.
The Kegelstatt though… I did my own edition for this piece so it’s kind of ready to publish but I’d like to do a lot of work on it first. There’s a lot of “textural” things in it – for example places where Livius obviously made a mistake (some strange viola figurations) which needed correction and other places where he deviates from the original Mozart. Eventually I would like to publish this but there’s a lot of information that I’d like to include so that performers have various options and can make their own decisions. Basically it needs a critical report. So it’s on the cards but I need to find the time to do it.

Also of note is Scott’s use of a hybrid instrument, a natural horn by Courtois Frères, Paris, c. 1835, with a removable set of piston valves (sauterelle) by Antoine Halary, Paris, c. 1840. She seamlessly combines both hand horn and valve technique in her recording of Mozart’s Concertante for pianoforte, horn, viola, and cello, arranged by Barham Livius.

On a related topic I’ll close with a general statement about Scott’s natural horn playing, which incorporates lots of different colors and expressive contrasts. There are varying schools of thought regarding hand horn technique, one of which emphasizes absolute evenness and consistency of sound between stopped and open notes. While there is merit to this approach, I personally enjoy hearing a difference in stopped and open timbres, especially when in the hands of a consummate musician like Anneke Scott. When performed tastefully, these contrasts add an elusive, but very important, quality to the music of that era. As a primarily modern (valved) horn player, I have been inspired by these recordings to strive for more expression and timbral variations in my own playing. I think you will as well!

Recording Reviews: Uncommon Ground & En-Cor!

For this week’s post I have two brief recording reviews. First up is a recent release on the MSR Classics label, Uncommon Ground: Contemporary Works for Trumpet with Horn, Trombone, Piano, and Organ. I was particularly interested in this album because three of the performers were classmates of mine at the University of Wisconsin-Madison: Amy Schendel, trumpet, Todd Schendel, trombone, and Bernhard Scully, horn. All three have gone on to distinguished careers as performers and educators, and I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to perform with them. A majority of the tracks on Uncommon Ground are world premiere recordings, including two works for brass trio, Jean-François Michel’s Suite pour Trompette, Cor et Trombone (1994), and Joseph Blaha’s French Suite (2011). Both are very fine compositions, and highly recommended for those looking to expand their knowledge of the brass trio repertoire. For a little bit of background on the Michel, here’s a quote from my article on brass trio repertoire in the most recent issue of The Horn Call.

Michel is a professor at the Haute Ecole de Musique in Fribourg, and is a prolific composer and arranger for brass. The first movement opens with extended solo fanfares for the horn and trombone, followed by a faster section full of syncopation and mixed meters. The lyrical second movement makes for a nice contrast with the faster, more energetic outer movements. This piece puts some new twists on a traditional form, with plenty of great writing for all three instruments. “Brass Trio Repertoire: Beyond Poulenc”, The Horn Call, May 2015.

Joseph Blaha serves on the faculty at Roanoke College, and his French Suite was commissioned by the Contrapunctus Brass Trio (Amy Schendel, Todd Schendel, Bernhard Scully). I had the opportunity to hear these players in a live performance of the piece at the 44th International Horn Symposium in Denton, TX, and was very impressed. Modeled after the French Suites of J.S. Bach, Blaha’s trio makes frequent use of counterpoint, with plenty of interesting lines for all three instruments.

The playing on this album is of the highest caliber, as one would expect, and I was especially impressed by the clear, focused sound and impeccable intonation throughout. All three players are comfortable with the entire range of their instruments, and are able to produce, in my opinion, exactly the “right” sounds required by the music.

The second and final review for today is En-Cor!, featuring the American Horn Quartet. Financed primarily through a Kickstarter campaign, En-Cor! is likely the final recording by one of the most decorated brass ensembles in the world. After nearly 30 years of concerts, competitions, master classes, and residencies, the AHQ will be collectively retiring in 2015. (For much more information on the history of the AHQ, see Kerry Turner’s article in the May 2015 issue of The Horn Call). Though the ensemble has recorded most of the major works for horn quartet, including group member Kerry Turner’s own fine compositions,  the CD booklet notes that there were many other lighter works in their repertoire that had not yet been recorded. Over the years, these brief compositions became audience favorites, and were often used as encores at AHQ concerts. Thus, En-Cor! is in many ways a retrospective of some of the quartet’s finest playing, spanning everything from Bach to Bernstein. As for their performances, I can’t really say much that hasn’t already been said. If you’re a horn player, chances are you’ve heard of the American Horn Quartet, and if not, buy this album – or any of their albums – today. You will hear playing that pushes the boundaries of what’s possible on the instrument, all the while with warmth and expressiveness to rival any other chamber group out there…period.

The AHQ holds a special place in my heart because I grew up listening to their recordings. There are only a handful of brass ensembles that I’ve listened to consistently over my 20+ years as a horn player, and the American Horn Quartet is one of them. Having heard them live multiple times, I can also say that this recording is representative of their actual abilities and sound. What you will hear is not recording studio magic; they really do sound this good! And while it is a little saddening to know that the group will be retiring after their final performances at the 47th International Horn Symposium, I am comforted by two things:

  1.  Their many fine recordings, including this one, which have left such an incredible impression on generations of horn players.
  2. The handful of other professional horn quartets currently performing, many of them modeled after the AHQ’s example.

To paraphrase the closing of Kerry Turner’s article in The Horn Call, when the AHQ began 30 years ago, a horn quartet was considered more of a novelty than anything resembling a legitimate chamber ensemble. Today, there are many other brass chamber groups (not just horn quartets) who have benefited from the AHQ’s groundbreaking career. And while the reviews, recognition, and awards the AHQ has garnered over a nearly 30-year period would be considered remarkable in any field, their true legacy is the legions of horn players they have influenced and inspired.