A Visit to Gebr. Alexander with Andrew Downing, Part 1

My longtime friend and colleague Andrew Downing recently visited the Gebr. Alexander showroom in Mainz, Germany to hand pick a new horn.  Andy was kind enough to answer some questions about his experiences there. His 2-part interview offers some fascinating insights into Gebr. Alexander’s manufacturing and sales process.

James Boldin: You recently had a rare opportunity for American horn players: visiting the Gebr. Alexander showroom in Mainz, Germany and hand-picking a new horn. Could you give some brief background on how this visit came about?

Andrew Downing: I have a younger brother, Tom Downing, that studied horn throughout high school and chose to enlist in the US Army Band services at the age of 18. Upon leaving the military music school in Norfolk, VA he was given a chance to choose his post and elected to join a band that was stationed at the time in Wiesbaden, Germany. Wiesbaden is a beautiful hillside town across the Rhine from Mainz which is known to most horn players as the home to Gebr. Alexander. Tom served in the Army for many years before his departure to join the American military support work force in Wiesbaden. Tom and his family graciously invited my wife Ashley and I to visit them this spring and I was suddenly facing the chance to visit the legendary Alexander workshop and potentially purchase a new horn. I knew I might have few chances like this in my life and decided to begin creating a savings plan. The VAT tax savings and current exchange rate made the travel worth the effort. The scheduling process took close to a year and began with an email to one of their primary sales managers. Once he confirmed it was possible the planning began.

JB: Why Alexander Horns? Have you always had a special affinity for them?

AD: I spent a few years of my collegiate studies playing on a 1960’s era Alexander model 103 I acquired from a European professional that had moved to the states. I immediately fell in love with the special character of Alexander horns – dark and velvety in softer dynamics and brassy and bright when played loudly. There is an unmatched color they make that seems to encourage many European horn sections to use them down the line to generate a uniform sound. I have always felt that the best Alexanders I’ve played seemed to vibrate in the core of the horn rather than at the embouchure much like the way a great bowed instrument resonates from within. I played many memorable concerts on my old horn and only gave it up in the early 2000’s to get on the Geyer-style horn bandwagon for American auditions and jobs I was taking. It also needed quite a bit of work and I ended up selling it to someone that wanted to invest in the restoration. I have missed it ever since.

JB: Was it difficult to schedule a time and day for the visit? What was the overall customer service experience like?

AD: The sales experience began in the early fall of 2016 with an email to Reimund Pankratz, one of the sales managers for Alexander. He was extremely welcoming to my request and was pleased that I was planning so far out. Reimund took time to discuss my options and talk through the buying process. Once we settled on my instrument preferences we agreed on a set time and date to visit during my trip early on to select a horn. I would then wait about a week and a half for finishing. No deposit was required for the trial and the payment takes place at the time of final selection. All horn trials in their shop are done with their horns in “raw condition” – their term for unfinished brass with much touch up work to do to the finish at solder points. Once my choice was made and I had completed my purchase they would move it to their shop for touch up and customization per my requests. Based upon my experience it seems that the best chance for someone to secure an appointment for a horn trial would be to contact Alexander nine to twelve months prior and attempt to secure a date. They focus on a very private trial experience and their time and space are limited for demos.

JB: What horns did you try?

AD: Reimund and I discussed the models I wanted to try and settled on the 1103, the Geyer-style or “K Model” as they name it. I chose this because I play quite a few gigs in the Dallas/Fort Worth area and most players here are on Hills/Rauch/Schmids, etc. I wanted to have an instrument that fit more closely with those types of horns than the omnipresent 103. The reason we settled on one model, not many models, is so they could prepare the model of my choice with various options. The 1103 comes in yellow or gold brass, hand-hammered or spun bells, and even cryogenically frozen bells. Alexander makes over a dozen horn models and it’s virtually impossible for them to prep all of their horns in all their options for one visitor. Ultimately they prepared five 1103s for me to try with a variety of features. Anyone that wants to visit should be careful to pick their base model to try prior to beginning the planning process to allow for the widest assortment of options. That being said I also had the chance to play a few 103s, a forthcoming prototype not yet ready for the market and even a Vienna horn! A particularly impressive part of their trial space is their Wagner tuba display. Alexander consulted with Richard Wagner to design the original tubas for the Ring cycle and as a gift he gave the company a handwritten manuscript of Das Rheingold, the first opera in the cycle. A facsimile of the score covers a wall of their showroom.

Andrew Downing lives in suburban Dallas, Texas. He is an active freelance artist and is a member of the Mockingbird Brass, a quintet based in North Texas. More information about him can be found at: http://www.mockingbirdbrass.com/about.html

Coming up in Part 2 of this interview: testing out horns, selecting a horn, and final thoughts.



Friday Review: Rescued! Forgotten Works for the 19th Century Horn

rescuedFor today’s review we have a new recording by John Ericson, Rescued! Forgotten Works for the 19th Century Horn. Ericson is Associate Professor of Horn at Arizona State University, and is a recognized expert on horn history and the 19th-century horn in particular. I’ve been looking forward to this recording for quite some time, and have avidly followed Ericson’s series of articles related to this project on Horn Matters. The entire series is well worth reading, but to summarize, Rescued! is the culmination of Ericson’s research into the repertoire and technique of the 19th-century single F horn, which is often overlooked by modern horn players. The written description of the CD is as follows:

Rescued! celebrates the forgotten works of a group of 19th-century hornists and composers. The music included in this recording was composed between roughly 1860 and 1910 and are quality works aimed primarily at low horn players of the late 19th century who still used single F horns. The works included in this recording are:

  • Nocturno, Op. 73 – B. Ed. Müller
  • Sonate, Op. 347 – Fritz Spindler
  • Melancholie, Op. 68 – B. Ed. Müller
  • Am Abend, Op. 71 – B. Ed. Müller
  • Gondellied, Op. 15 – Karl Matys
  • Lied ohne Worte, Op. 2 – Oscar Franz
  • Serenade, Op. 20 – Louis Bödecker
  • Lied ohne Worte – Josef Richter
  • Resignation, Op. 16 – Charles Eisner
  • Wiegenlied, Op. 69, No. 1 – B. Ed. Müller
  • Sonata, Op. 7 – Hermann Eichborn

Most of the compositions on this recording will be new or at the least unfamiliar to a majority of horn players. And while the works presented here may not have been written by the “A-list” composers of the time, they are still high quality and worthy of study. The scores are all available on IMSLP for free, and I think that Ericson’s fine recording will help revive an interest in them. Any would be perfect additions to a recital.

I’ve heard Ericson perform numerous times, and both he and pianist Yi-Wan Liao are in top form on this recording. The technical difficulties involved in performing on the single F horn are daunting: mouthpieces, crooks, accuracy, intonation, etc. Yet Ericson plays with exceptional musicality, not to mention spot-on accuracy and intonation throughout the entire disc. As one might expect, the sound of the single F horn is reminiscent of the natural horn – warm and velvety in softer dynamics, with a bit of sizzle at forte volume. The piano sound is also quite warm, accentuating (without dominating) the horn sound. Most of the works emphasize the lyrical capabilities of the instrument, although the Eichborn Sonata and a few others contain some nice technical passages as well. Listening to this disc, one might assume that playing a 19th-century single F horn is an easy task – if you’ve ever tried it you know that isn’t the case! “Wolf” notes are more frequent and difficult to control than on the modern double horn, and achieving any level of accuracy requires great skill and an exceptional ear. Bravo to Ericson and Liao for releasing this fine disc!

Remembering Gunther Schuller

Last month the musical world lost Gunther Schuller, an immensely talented artist with wide ranging interests (image linked from hornsociety.org). There have already been a number of excellent tributes to Mr. Schuller, including his obituary in the New York Times, and today I would like to share a few items in memory of him.

First, here is a summary of my previous interactions with Mr. Schuller, originally posted here.

Horn players are probably most familiar with him as the author of  Horn Technique, which has become a classic resource for players and teachers everywhere.  And though he is generally more recognized today as a composer, author, and conductor, Schuller began his musical career as a professional horn player, holding Principal positions with the Cincinnati Symphony and the Metropolitan Opera.  You can find another biography with more details on his performing career on the International Horn Society‘s site.  I’ve had the opportunity to work with Mr. Schuller several times over the years, first while attending the Brevard Music Center, where he ran an intensive two-week conductor’s workshop.  One of the BMC ensembles I played with that summer served as the “lab” orchestra for Mr. Schuller’s conducting students.  Schuller possesses an amazing ear, and is able to hear incredibly small details through even the thickest orchestrations.  It wasn’t always easy performing under his baton, but I certainly came away from the experience with a greater knowledge of music and musicianship.  Later, during doctoral work at UW-Madison, I got a chance to work with Schuller again as an assistant for a course he was teaching as a visiting lecturer.  The course was called simply “The Creative Process,” and involved a number of great discussions between Schuller and the students about composition and art in general.

Next, I have some brief excerpts recorded from lectures he gave during his residency at UW-Madison (mentioned in the above quote) in fall 2005. I was delighted to find these buried on an old hard drive, and have been fascinated (again) listening to Schuller’s thoughts on horn playing, creativity, and talent. These are only a small sampling of the materials – recorded with Schuller’s permission – and perhaps a way to share all of them can be worked out with his estate. Details for each excerpt are included below.

Gunther Schuller will certainly be missed, not just by his friends and family, but also by the numerous performers, composers, and other musicians with whom he worked during his long and productive career. As a horn player, I can think of no better way to remember and honor him than by performing some of his music. Here’s a listing of several of his solo and chamber works which involve the horn.

  • Concerto No. 1 for Horn and Orchestra
  • Trio [oboe, horn, viola]
  • Suite for Woodwind Quintet
  • Lines and Contrasts [16 horns]
  • Music for Brass Quintet
  • Studies for Unaccompanied Horn
  • Duets for Unaccompanied Horns
  • Double Quintet [brass quintet, woodwind quintet]
  • Wood Curtain Raiser [flute, clarinet, horn, piano]
  • Diptych for Brass Quintet and Orchestra
  • Five Pieces for Five Horns
  • Little Brass Music [trumpet, horn, trombone, tuba]
  • Wind Quintet
  • Concerto No. 2 for Horn and Orchestra
  • Octet [clarinet, bassoon, horn, 2 violins, viola, cello, bass]
  • Trois Hommages  [horn and piano]
  • Three Pieces for Horn and Violin
  • Blues  [brass quintet, bass, and drums]
  • Nocturne for Horn and Piano
  • Sonata for Horn and Piano
  • Romantic Sonata [clarinet, horn, piano]
  • Impromptus and Cadenzas [bassoon, clarinet, horn, oboe, violin, cello]
  • Brass Quintet No. 1
  • Brass Quintet No. 2
  • Sextet for Left Hand Piano and Woodwind Quintet
  • Ohio River Reflections [horn, violin, viola, piano]
  • Quodlibet [oboe, horn, violin, cello, harp]
  • Quintet for Horn and Strings

A Treasury of Horns!

I had the opportunity last week to speak with Craig Pratt, a longtime member of the Shreveport Symphony’s horn section, about his extensive collection of rare and interesting horns. Craig was generous enough to let me photograph some of these instruments, and offered very knowledgable comments about their history and design. His collection is surely one of the most extensive in the state, if not the entire region. You can view the collection by clicking here, complete with photographs, but if you are in a hurry check out the images below for a few of the most interesting horns. If you have any questions about these instruments I would be happy to pass them along. Thanks Craig!

C.F. Schmidt: Double Horn with Horizontal Thumb Valve (1900): This unique horn appears to be a one-off prototype, and to my knowledge (and Craig’s) never went into production.


Here’s a closeup of the valve section, seen from the other side of the horn.


Carl Geyer, Hunting Horn (Rare)

DSCN1752 DSCN1754

Raoux, Cor Orchestra with Sauterelle 

IMG_0447 IMG_0448











More Information on John Barrows

Dave Stoller in Colorado recently posted some wonderful reminiscences about his former teacher John Barrows on my earlier article  “What Alec Wilder Thought of John Barrows.” With Dave’s permission I am re-posting them here because they will probably be of interest to lots of readers. Thanks again to Dave for sharing these! At the end of the article I’ve included some links to additional resources on John Barrows, who was a very colorful personality in the horn world.

Barrows did not practice much – sorry to disappoint you guys who thought this was all fiction. He did not warm up in the traditional sense either. Just picked up the horn and “got at it.” But he did play pretty much all day, everyday, except maybe a break on the weekends to go bowling, hang out with friends. He was so gracious to play the etudes that were assigned, then play them with you for a boost. And he would demo all sorts of pedagogical techniques during lessons. (I studied with him four years at the University of Wisconsin). I also was well grounded in natural horn and spent one full semester under his mentorship with the hand horn. And he could play natural horn as well or better than any current virtuoso.

HIs playing and performing schedule was staggering i.e. chamber music, the various performances, his touring in the UK and Europe with Serkin, his work with Casals, the New York Woodwind Quintet, then the quintet at the University of Wisconsin. He also did a series of recordings for the Library of Congress with the Julliard String Quartet. Few know about this and I wonder what happened to these recordings of rare and forgotten works for the horn in chamber music and solo settings. He also helped out with the Chicago Symphony and was quite fond of Dale Clevenger. He was a warm and gracious guy and had talent/pedagogical virtuosity that most current players simply would not believe. And he had a marvelous sense of humor. He loved the stunt of playing the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto on the horn as a gag. And he played it beautifully.

He played his two old C.F. Schmidts, his Mirafone descant, and a few odds and ends until the Holton Company sent a new nickel silver Farkas model horn over to his studio from Elkhorn, Wisconsin. I was in his studio when this horn arrived. He fell in love with this Holton horn immediately. It was what we now call the model H-179. He eventually switched to the model H-177 in nickel for the smaller bell throat that was closer to his old Schmidts. This is anecdotal and conjecture, but I think Barrows had great influence on the Holton company and their horns and mouthpieces. He was able to help Carl Geyer in a number of ways as well. Carl reached the point where he could no longer bend brass, hence the Holton Company made a model of Geyer’s horn, the H-190. These are exquisite horns and few players even know they exist. And Carl helped to promote this horn at various shows. Barrows arranged for Carl and his wife to move to Madison, Wisconsin and become the instrument tech for the UW School of Music. But we could not get old Carl out of Chicago.

His friendship with Alec Wilder was quite touching and Barrows helped Alec keep track of his finances, royalties etc. Wilder would often be seen on the music school annex steps reading Popular Science. He was a distinguished guy and always wearing a sport coat and tie. It was a thrill to have him compose a work for our freshmen horn quartet. And of course we took him out for pizza and beer. I don’t think he was a fan of either, but was so gracious to indulge us.

What a joy it was to be mentored into horn playing by John Barrows, arguably one of the all time greatest virtuosos of the instrument. And of the natural horn.

Dave in Colorado

Additional Resources on John Barrows

Thailand Tour: Day 3

We spent most of today sightseeing around Bangkok. By the way, we will be doing plenty of performing and teaching on this tour, but our concerts and master classes will take place later in the week. Although in some respects it would have been nice to perform first and sightsee later, for the most part I am extremely glad that we have had several days to acclimate to both the weather and the time zone here.

We began the day by taking a water taxi on the Chao Phraya River, which runs through Bangkok. Here’s a view from the taxi.

20120603-210424.jpg From the taxi we took an elevated train to the Grand Palace, which is a massive complex occupying several acres in the city. I wish I could post all of the 150+ photos I took of the amazing architecture and Buddhist icons, but hopefully these few will give you at least an idea of the scope of what we saw. Many of the structures and artwork are several hundred years old, dating back to 1782. The panorama below is only a small part of a mural which surrounds the entire complex.

20120603-211011.jpg And here is one of the dozens (if not hundreds) of beautiful statues which adorn the exterior of most of the buildings.

20120603-211426.jpg And now for the buildings themselves. Our tour guide presented more information than I could possibly retain, but the general idea is that each of the main buildings serves a specific religious and/or cultural purpose, usually tied to the Royal family of Thailand. Entrance to some of the buildings is only permitted a few times a year, and in some cases not at all.

20120603-211726.jpg And another.

20120603-211911.jpg Being surrounded by these intricate and beautiful artifacts was definitely awe-inspiring, as was our next stop, the Reclining Buddha located at Wat Pho. Here’s a picture.

20120603-212336.jpg It’s difficult to get a sense of the massive scale just by looking at the picture, but the statue is approximately 140 feet long.

Our last stop of the day was the Jim Thompson House, a museum dedicated to James H.W. Thompson, an American businessman who is credited with building the silk industry in Thailand into an international enterprise. After serving in WWII, Thompson permanently moved to Bangkok and devoted much of his time and efforts to promoting and preserving Thai culture. He mysteriously disappeared in 1967 while on vacation in Malaysia, and what actually happened to him is still unknown. Our tour guide was extremely knowledgeable about Thompson’s life as well as the numerous pieces of art and furniture located in the museum. It was a great way to end our sightseeing journey! Here’s a picture from the exterior of the house, which is modeled after a traditional Thai home but with many Western amenities such as indoor plumbing.

20120603-213823.jpg After concluding our tours for the day we spent a few minutes shopping for souvenirs at a nearby shopping mall. This six story building was packed with enough retailers to fill several American malls, and the variety of goods available was mind boggling.

Tomorrow will be a little slower because it is a national holiday in Thailand, and many businesses will be closed. Our trio will be rehearsing and resting up for our series of performances here, which kicks off on Tuesday. More to come!

Another Summer Project: Create an Edition

Ok, I know that today’s post was supposed to be about juries, but I needed a few more days to put together my thoughts, and I also remembered another project to add to Monday’s list.  This project originated in an upper level music history course I teach as a viable alternative to a traditional research paper. If done correctly, creating a usable edition of a piece involves  an equivalent amount of work as writing a research paper, and is arguably just as useful (perhaps more so). I still require research papers in my lower level history classes – so don’t get excited yet, students – but for the upper level courses this project was an option in lieu of writing a paper.  For serious performers, creating your own edition of a major solo work can be a great experience, and maybe even fun!  Here are the requirements as presented to my students.  If you decide to do this for a summer project, you can of course edit or modify the steps as you wish. This semester’s course focused on the Classic era, but the project could work equally well for the Baroque era, or possibly even the Romantic era. Enjoy! [The above image is linked from musicroom.com, and is the cover from the Barenreiter urtext edition of Mozart’s Horn Concerto No. 4.]

Creating an Edition: Instructions and Requirements

*This assignment can be completed in lieu of a traditional term paper, and will count for the same percentage of your course average.  Your grade will be determined based on 1) the quality of your work and 2) your thoroughness in completing the following requirements.

I.          Choose a Work

You may choose any work from the Classic [or Baroque] era, although the instructor must approve it. Possibilities  include a complete single-movement work, a movement or movements from a longer work, or an entire multi-movement work (ex. suite or concerto).

II.         Sources

Begin by compiling a bibliography of sources for your chosen piece.  It should include the following.

A.        The composer’s original manuscript (if available), and various other editions from historical to modern.  At a minimum, you need to be able to examine 5-10 editions, including the composer’s manuscript, when creating your edition.

B.         Primary and secondary literature on your chosen piece, including journal articles, books, and any  other information related to historical performance practice.  Treatises by C.P.E. Bach, Quantz, Leopold Mozart, and others include valuable information on articulation, dynamics, and  other aspects of interpretation.  At a minimum, provide 5-10 sources.

C.         Recordings of your chosen work, including performances on both period and modern instruments. 5-10 sources.

D.        Provide a brief (ca. 500 words) summary of the resources you find, including any difficulties you encountered.  If information is lacking (ex. composer’s manuscript), make note of it in your summary.

III.       Edition

Using Finale or Sibelius, create a modern edition of the work, including editorial markings such as dynamics, articulations, phrase markings, and any other information that might be useful to performers.    Include translations of any foreign terms, as well as the original terms.  Simply copying the markings in  another edition is not sufficient! You must compare all of the available sources at your disposal, including   scores, recordings, and primary/secondary literature, in order to make informed choices.  If you are unable to decide between two equally convincing interpretations, you can always  include both possibilities in your edition.  Above all, your goal should be to create a historically informed edition which a modern performer could use. *If you choose a piece with accompaniment, you need only create an edition for the solo part.

IV.       Final Summary  

Provide a written explanation (ca. 1000 words) of the choices you made in creating your edition.  Which  sources proved the most/least valuable? If there were any controversies associated with your work, how did you deal with them?  In cases where you included more than one possible interpretation, explain your  rationale for doing so.  Explain why this project was beneficial to you as a musician.

“Albumblatt” by Johannes Brahms

On Friday while listening to this episode of Performance Today, one particular work caught my attention, a recently discovered work by Johannes Brahms entitled Albumblatt or “album leaf.” Apparently I missed this news when it came out in April of last year, but in short the work is musically and historically significant for a couple of reasons. First, the work is a complete piece, not a sketch, and was discovered in an album which belonged to Arnold Wehner, a well known music director from the mid 19th century. Second – and of particular interest to horn players – is that the theme in Albumblatt is the same as the trio melody from the second movement of Brahms’s Trio, Op. 40 for piano, violin, and horn.  According to this article on Pianostreet.com, musicologists believe Brahms composed Albumblatt in 1853, and reused the melody in the Op. 40 trio 12 years later.  There has been some controversy regarding who actually discovered this “new” work, and the Pianostreet.com article provides some enlightening details.  The article also includes a back-to-back comparison of both the solo piano and trio versions.  Visit the above link for those YouTube videos, or check out the links below. I feel a bit sheepish about reposting information that’s already been out there for a while, but this was just too good not to pass along. Enjoy!

András Schiff plays “Albumblatt” in A minor by Johannes Brahms (linked from http://www.pianostreet.com)

The same theme used in Brahms’s Trio, Op. 40 (linked from http://www.pianostreet.com; performers are Zora Slokar, Horn; Denes Varjon, Piano; and Tamas Major, Violin)

Also, here’s a short video by BBC Radio with some background informati0n as well as the above mentioned performance by András Schiff.

Friday Review: Carved in Stone, The Life and Musical Legacy of Vincent DeRosa

We return to horn-related books in this week’s review of Carved in Stone: The Life and Musical Legacy of Vincent ReRosa, by Todd Miller.  I’ve had Carved in Stone for a while, and have actually read through it a couple of times, but writing a concise review was a little daunting because of the broad scope of the book.   According to the author’s website (linked above):

Carved In Stone documents the life, career, and playing and teaching techniques of horn player Vincent DeRosa, the world-renowned recording artist. DeRosa has had an astounding career that spans seven decades. He is undoubtedly the most recorded horn player ever, as well as one of the most respected.

This is an accurate description, but Carved in Stone also includes a wealth of historical information on the film and recording industries, as well as technical and musical advice for playing the horn. I was especially interested by the account of relations between studio musicians and the American Federation of Musicians. The book is divided into four main parts: a biographical overview of DeRosa, an extensive account of his career as both an orchestral player and studio musician, descriptions of his playing and teaching techniques, and several appendices containing exercises, photographs, and recommended etudes. The writing is engaging, and strikes a fine balance between academic and informal prose. Growing up on the east coast, I was not as familiar with Mr. DeRosa – and his immense influence on the horn playing world – as I was with Philip Farkas or James Chambers.  However, DeRosa’s contributions are arguably just as substantial, and in 2004 he was elected an Honorary Member of the International Horn Society. Thinking back over the various chapters of Carved in Stone, a few common themes stand out to me.

  1. Work ethic: Carved in Stone is full of accounts of DeRosa’s industriousness, both as a teacher and a professional player. I particularly appreciated his “can do” attitude about every single challenge with which he was faced.
  2. Concentration: Studio playing is full of make or break moments, and DeRosa seems to have had an uncanny ability to focus his mind and body on the task at hand, shutting out any and all distractions.
  3. Tone, Tone, Tone: In his teaching and playing, DeRosa stressed the importance of a beautiful tone above all else. Here’s a great quote from Carved in Stone via Julia Rose’s blog. [UPDATE:Link no longer available]

A good portion of the book is devoted to several calisthenic and flexibility exercises favored by DeRosa. They are similar to exercises found in other places, but it never hurts to have multiple variations on tried and true materials. As with other deceptively simple long tone and arpeggio patterns, the difficulty in these exercises is executing them accurately, in tune, and with a good tone every single time.

Even if you’ve never heard of Vincent DeRosa, chances are you’ve heard his playing – through hundreds of film and television scores as well as commercial jingles. Carved in Stone, along with biographies of other great players and teachers in the horn world, should be on every serious player’s shelf.  To close out this review here’s a brief sample of DeRosa’s impressive tone and musicality. The recording below is “Micky” from the soundtrack to the motion picture Rocky III. Score by Bill Conti, recorded by Vincent DeRosa and the Hollywood Studio Symphony. Enjoy!

IHS Honorary Members and Name Recognition

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been reading a very interesting series on fame and name recognition in the horn world by Bruce Hembd at Horn Matters.  Bruce began his series with a discussion about “spheres of influence,” followed by a”who’s who survey filled with names of prominent horn players.  For results of the survey as well as some great follow-up posts by Bruce, see here, here, and here.  There are probably lots of conclusions that can be drawn from these results, but one general trend that seemed apparent to me is the influence that technology – and the internet in particular – has on name recognition in our field.  Prior to the internet age, recognition in the horn world (and in general) came much more slowly, perhaps through recordings, performances at international horn symposiums, or through a legacy of successful students.  All of these avenues are still available today, of course, but technology has greatly enhanced the speed with which professional connections can be made.  As I read through Bruce’s research and materials on name recognition, I started thinking about the International Horn Society’s roster of Honorary Members, and how many names from that list I would recognize. Honorary Membership is the highest honor the IHS bestows, with the intent being “to honor living hornists who have made a major contribution at the international level to the art of horn playing” (quoted from the IHS website).  It is an impressive list to say the least, but I’ll admit that I wasn’t familiar with every name on it. This situation was easily remedied, however, through the biographies included on the IHS website.   See the list below for the names I didn’t recognize – but make sure to view the entire list as well!

After perusing this list, I also spent some time reading about a few celebrated horn players of the past, also on the IHS website.

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