Semester Preview: Spring 2019

I’m a few days late with this semester preview, but things have gotten off to a great start here at ULM. Here’s a brief overview of some of the exciting events happening this spring.

  • Brass Trio Tour: Black Bayou Brass began our semester with a three-day tour of Northwest Louisiana and East Texas. We performed for and worked with several great groups of students. In addition to a few run-out concerts to local schools this spring, we will be busy preparing for our annual faculty recital on April 17. Program details to come in a future post.
  • Guest Artists Galore: We often have multiple guest artists on the ULM campus each academic year, but this spring we’ll have more than the usual number, including several fantastic horn players. Our first guest artist this spring was Centria Brown, a DMA candidate at Louisiana State University, studying with Professor Seth Orgel.  Ms. Brown is a fellow native of North Carolina and earned her undergraduate degree at Wingate University. She gave a fantastic master class and recital, with a program including the Nelhybel Scherzo Concertante, Mozart 4, Krol Laudatio, and the Lars-Erik Larsson Concertino, op 45, no 5. This coming week we’ll be welcoming another guest, Timothy Thompson, Professor of Horn at the University of Arkansas. He’ll be performing a program of unaccompanied works entitled “Around the World with the Horn.” On February 8 we’ll host the Quintasonic Brass for our annual Brass Day workshop. In addition to a recital by Quintasonic Brass, the day’s events will also include a special horn pedagogy clinic and exhibits by Houghton Horns. To close out this impressive roster of horn artists, the Cobalt Quartet will perform a recital on March 12. Members include several prominent horn performers and teachers from across the country: Jena Gardner, Katie Johnson, Caroline Steiger, and Rose Valby. In addition to these horn players, euphonium virtuoso Demondrae Thurman will be in residence for two days, presenting a guest recital (Feb. 25), master classes, and more.
  • Chamber Recitals, Premieres, etc. Along with preparations for our brass trio recital on April 17, I’m also working towards two performances of brand new chamber works with horn. On April 2, I’ll join my colleagues in Trio Mélange for the Louisiana premiere of Dana Wilson‘s song cycle, Love me like a beautiful dream for soprano (or mezzo-soprano), horn, and piano. This substantial new work was commissioned by a consortium initiated by hornist Jeff Nelsen, and his wife, mezzo-soprano Nina Nelsen. The six movements include settings of texts ranging from the 6th century B.C.E. to the 20th century. It’s a hauntingly beautiful work, and is sure to get many more performances in the coming years. Shortly after that, my colleague Mel Mobley and I will travel to Commerce, TX to premiere Crystal Kaleidoscope, a new work for horn and vibraphone by Ken Davies. We commissioned this piece with some generous help from the International Horn Society’s Meir Rimon Commissioning Assistance Fund. I have a fairly light orchestral load this spring, which should balance out well with my other teaching and performing obligations.
  • Texas Music Educators Association Convention: TMEA is widely recognized as one of the biggest (and best) music education conferences in the world, and I’m fortunate to have the opportunity to attend for a few days in February. I won’t be performing or presenting, but I look forward to my first time at this event. More details in future posts!
  • Editorial and Review Activities: Carving out time to write blog posts has been a bit difficult for me these past several months, as (among other things) I’ve been engaged in some related activities – namely reviewing new books and compositions for the Horn Call, and, more recently, joining the IHS Online Music Sales editorial team. I have enjoyed my work on both projects, and I’m especially excited to be involved with the “Music of Douglas Hill” collection. Be on the lookout for several new additions to this section of the online catalog in the coming months. That being said, I am hopeful that I can return to at least a semi-regular blogging schedule this semester. With all of the varied happenings I shouldn’t have any trouble finding material to write about!

As always, best wishes for a great semester to my colleagues near and far.

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Recording Reviews: Richard Deane; Steven Cohen

I seldom post recording reviews on this site, but every once in a while I either receive a complimentary album in the mail, or hear about a project that piques my interest. To close out a series of reviews from this summer, here are two horn recordings that are well worth your time.

Mid-Century Sonatas for Horn and PianoRichard Deane, horn; Timothy Whitehead, piano

  • Halsey Stevens, Sonata for Horn and Piano (1953)
  • Paul Hindemith, Sonata für Althorn in Es und Klavier (1943/1956)
  • Bernard Heiden, Sonata for Horn and Piano (1939)
  • Paul Hindemith, Sonata für Horn und Klavier (1939)
Front+CoverBIGGER

These sonatas for horn and piano by Halsey Stevens, Paul Hindemith, and Bernard Heiden are staples in the repertoire. Deane is Associate Principal Horn in the New York Philharmonic, and served as Acting Principal for the 2017-18 season. He was previously a member of the Atlanta Symphony for many years. Though the repertoire is conventional, the extremely high caliber of the performances makes this recording special. Deane plays with a huge but focused sound. To my ear the “New York sound” has changed over the years, partially due to changes in equipment, I’m sure, but also probably as a response to the ever increasing demands of the job. Whitehead’s piano playing is equally impressive – especially in the final movement of the Hindemith E-flat Sonata – and is a fitting musical counterpart to the horn in these works.  There is not much in the way of liner notes, but there is a very nice video on YouTube with background about the project: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mP-kJf8xiJM  One other interesting note about this album is that Whitehead not only performed on piano, but did all of the recording, producing, editing, and mixing – not a small feat! The recording is both vibrant and clear, and for those who might be interested the recording equipment is listed in the liner notes.

Cruise Control: Horn Music from Five Emerging American Composers – Steven Cohen, horn; Jed Moss, piano; Scott Shinbara, percussion; Amanda Sealock, percussion

  • James Naigus, Sonata for Horn and Piano
  • Jenni Brandon, Dawn for Horn in F and Piano
  • Adam Wolf, Cruise Control for Horn, Piano and Percussion
  • Wayne Lu, Pranayama
  • Gina Gillie, Sonata for Horn and Piano
IMG_5653

Cruise Control is a contrasting but equally interesting album by New York City freelancer Steven Cohen, and features world premiere recordings by several up and coming American composers. This project was sponsored by Siegfried’s Call, with a significant portion of the funding generated through an Indiegogo campaign. Be sure to check out the Indiegogo link for more information about the project and the commissioning process.

The music on this disc is fun and fresh, and showcases what I think the horn does best: play beautiful melodies and exhibit a variety of timbres. Cohen navigates the full range of the horn with ease and expression (using similar equipment to Richard Deane, a triple horn by Engelbert Schmid). Stylistically there is a bit of everything on this recording, from Neo-romanticism in the Sonatas by James Naigus and Gina Gillie to Minimalism and Rock in Cruise Control by Adam Wolf, and avant garde extended techniques in the works by Jenni Brandon and Wayne Lu. This recording is a musical and technical tour de force, and serves as a great resource for anyone interested in new music for the horn.

Trios for Horn, Trombone, and Tuba

k32067000000000-00-500x500A colleague from another university contacted me recently to ask for some recommendations about low brass trios (horn, trombone, tuba). Having just performed a program featuring music for this ensemble at the International Trombone Festival and the International Horn Symposium, I was interested to see what other repertoire might be out there. Based on a cursory search of my favorite online music retailers (and a few other places), here’s what turned up. It’s a more limited selection than the high brass trio, but more than I thought would be readily available. *This list only includes original works, not arrangements or transcriptions. I haven’t performed very many of these, although several of them look promising based on what I know of the composers’ other works. As I mentioned in my presentation at IHS 50, low and high brass trios are ripe for scholarship and creative activity in the form of recordings, commissions, arrangements, etc. If you have an interest in brass chamber music beyond the standard quintet, give the brass trio a serious look.

IHS 50 Report, Part 1

For the next few days, much of the horn world can be found in Muncie, Indiana for the 50th International Horn Symposium, hosted by Gene Berger at Ball State University. The theme of this year’s symposium is “The Golden History of Horn,” and throughout the week there will be several special events commemorating the last 50 years of symposia. IHS 50 got off to a rousing start this morning at the 10:00 a.m. opening concert, featuring members of the IHS Advisory Council and friends. Here’s the program from the opening concert (the full symposium program can be found online here)

Howard Buss,“Fanfare for a Golden Era” for 15 horns *World Premiere
Christopher Wiggins, Suite # 5 for Eight horns op. 169 *World Premiere
Richard Strauss/arr. Peter Damm, Eine (kleine) Alpensinfonie op. 64 for 15 horns, organ and glockenspiel
The Buss and Wiggins premieres were exciting, but the star of this program was of course Peter Damm’s arrangement of the Strauss. Despite being a fraction of the length of the full orchestral work, Damm’s adaptation captured all of the big horn moments from Strauss’s mammoth tone poem, including the off-stage brass. This piece is unpublished, and as such is seldom performed. It was truly a memorable event, see above for a photo of the ensemble just after the performance. I should also add that Ball State University has gorgeous music facilities, and a very beautiful campus overall. Most of the performances, lectures, and exhibits are located within a short walk of each other.
After a quick lunch I got set up for my presentation, Brass Trio Repertoire: Beyond Poulenc, based on an article I published in the 2015 Horn Call. It went very well, and the audience seemed quite interested in finding out more about original music for brass trio. The highlight for me was getting to catch up with my former teacher, Douglas Hill, who attended the presentation.
Next, I had a rehearsal with the University of Louisiana at Lafayette Horn Choir, Directed by Dr. Catherine Roche-Wallace. It was an honor to perform with them as part of the prelude music for the evening concert. Their program was as follows:
Thomas Jöstlein, Campbell Fanfare
Engelbert Humperdinck, Prelude-Chorale from “Hansel und Gretel” arr. Jeffery Kirschen
James Naigus, Halcyon
Percy Grainger, Selections from Lincolnshire Posy, arr. Dick Meyer
Eric Ewazen, Grand Canyon Octet (I. Allegro maestoso)
Bravo to Dr. Roche-Wallace and her students on a great performance, and thanks for asking me to play!
After the rehearsal I attended a bit of the 4:00 p.m. concert. I had to leave early to grab some dinner before the 6:15 p.m. Prelude performance, but had a chance to hear some fantastic playing by Katie Johnson-Webb from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville (Sonatas by Trygve Madsen and Wolfgang Plagge) and Jonathan Gannon from Florida A&M University (Earth Songs by Laurence Lowe).
The evening concert featured Elizabeth Freimuth, Principal Horn of the Cincinnati Symphony, and Robert Danforth, Principal Horn of the Indianapolis Symphony. The program included frequently performed works like the Villanelle by Paul Dukas, and some less frequently-performed works like Kurt Atterberg’s Concerto, Op. 28 and Franz Anton Rossler’s Concerto in Eb. I have heard both of these pieces in the past, but it has been a while, and hearing these virtuoso performers has inspired me to give them a second look. The Rossler sounds a little like Mozart, as he was a direct contemporary, but with more ornamentation. The Atterberg is a true tour de force, and Elizabeth Freimuth’s performance  was especially noteworthy. One last word about this concert, and a general theme for horn conferences and symposia, is that there are lots of really different (but equally valid) solo horn sounds out there. Tonight’s soloists sounded very different from each other, but they both played beautifully. For those who might be interested, based on what I could see from the audience Freimuth performed on a Knopf-style brass horn, and Danforth performed on (I believe) a silver Schmidt-style horn. It was a fantastic program, but being worn out from my all-day drive to Muncie the day before, I left after intermission to get a head start on some rest.
That’s all for this report. Check back soon for more!

Upcoming Conference Performances

While my summer has been restful so far, I’ve also been preparing for two conference performances with Black Bayou Brass. The first of these is the International Trombone Festival, July 11-14 at the University of Iowa, which will be quickly followed by the 50th International Horn Symposium, July 30 – August 4 at Ball State University.

Our ensemble for these performances is a low brass trio, composed of horn, trombone, and tuba. As with the high brass trio (trumpet, horn, trombone), the repertoire for low brass trio is limited, but with a few hidden gems. Here’s our program, with links to more information about the composers as well as YouTube links where available. If you aren’t familiar with the sound of a low brass trio be sure to listen to some of the recordings linked below. I’ve found it just as fulfilling as performing in a high brass trio, although the demands are slightly different. The horn has to play out in both groups, but being the lead voice in the low brass trio you have to lead a bit more (think like a trumpet player!)

It’s a great program, about 30 minutes of music, with lots of variety. Relationships by Canadian composer Elizabeth Raum was commissioned and recorded by three members of the brass faculty at Arizona State University, John Ericson, Deanna Swoboda, and Douglas Yeo, on their album Table for Three. It’s a very substantial three-movement work, with intricate writing in every part. The most notable, and by far the most performed composition on our program is Triangles, by John Stevens. Composed in 1978 for members of the Pentagon Brass Quintet, Triangles consists of several contrasting sections performed without pause. This piece has a bit of everything – classical, jazz, funk, Latin, etc. – all rolled into one. Fans of John Stevens will recognize many of the little licks and other stylistic fingerprints in this work which found their way into his later compositions. It’s a wonderful piece that every horn player should get a chance to play. Roger Jones, retired Professor of Tuba and Theory/Composition at the University of Louisiana Monroe, has a substantial catalog of noteworthy pieces. He’s been especially kind to our brass trio, and delivers again with this Trio for Horn, Trombone and Tuba. Composed in 1977, it’s the oldest work on the program, but has been seldom performed. If you plan on attending either this year’s International Trombone Festival or International Horn Symposium, I hope you can stop by and listen to our performance!

Throwback Thursday: Strauss 1 from 2004

From way back in my video archives, I dug out this live recording of a D.M.A. recital performance at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. It’s been really fun listening to this recording  – the video quality is pretty bad, but the audio is actually ok – and reminiscing about those days. The conductor is Matthew Beecher, another D.M.A. horn candidate who was working towards a minor in conducting, and the orchestra is the Camerata Chamber Orchestra, an ad hoc group made up of graduate and undergraduate students at the University of Wisconsin. Matthew and I shared this concert, with me performing the Strauss on the first half, and him performing the Britten Serenade on the second. He definitely had the more difficult job, and I remember the entire concert coming off really well. The video is too grainy to see much detail, but if memory serves the equipment is as follows:

  • Yamaha 667V
  • Moosewood B 13 (Y) mouthpiece, with an M2 rim (I think)

I definitely am a better all-around horn player now, but there are some things I really do like about this performance. This would have been my first semester as a doctoral student, and I was still working out some issues in my sound and overall approach to the horn. Yet, there’s a fearlessness to the playing and some musical ideas that I enjoy. It wasn’t a “perfect” performance, but it was definitely fun!

I performed the entire concerto, but unfortunately the DVD seems to have been damaged somehow, and the only electronic backup I had was of the first movement. Perhaps at some point I’ll be able to track down the rest of the piece.

New Routine Materials: Denise Tryon Routine and Marvin Howe’s The Advancing Hornist

In a post from earlier this  year, I talked about the benefits of adopting a modular approach to the daily routine. In short, rather than playing exactly the same exercises every single day, you instead compile a variety of things from each of the major categories of fundamentals. From these you can then rotate exercises in and out of your routine for variety and to address specific needs.

Getting to the subject of this post, I’ve recently been drawing upon two publications for use in my routine. The first is by Denise Tryon, formerly 4th Horn in the Philadelphia Orchestra, and now full time faculty at the Peabody Conservatory. Her routine is available as a PDF download, and comes with recordings and explanations by the author for all of the exercises. It’s not lengthy as far as routines go, but covers all of the basics in a very efficient way. Ms. Tryon mentions that once perfected the routine should only take about 25-30 minutes, although it might take as long as 45 at the beginning. Don’t be fooled by the seeming simplicity of these studies; when played correctly they are challenging and very effective. One other notable feature of this routine is the marketing. To my knowledge there are no physical materials to buy – the entire package is sold as a “course” through Ms. Tryon’s website, and everything is accessible online. In addition to the routine there is another course available dealing specifically with auditions and low horn excerpts. I’m really enjoying working out of this routine, and highly recommend it!

Another great collection of routine-type materials that has been around awhile but isn’t really talked about too much is Marvin Howe‘s The Advancing Hornist series. Edited by Randall Faust and available through Faust Music, this two-volume set contains some unique and progressive exercises that were really ahead of their time. I’ve been using the descending scale studies in my own practice routine, and the lip slurs and long tone duets during lessons. As someone who wasn’t that familiar with Marvin Howe’s pedagogy, it’s been interesting to note the similarities and differences among Howe and his contemporaries like Farkas, Schuller, and others. In many ways Howe was very forward-thinking, and his publications are certainly deserving of a place among the other great horn pedagogues of the 20th century. Both volumes are very reasonably priced, and well worth checking out.

Performance Videos, Part 2: Faculty Recital

For the second part of this performance video series, here are some live and unedited recordings from a recent faculty recital, which I shared with my colleague Jeremy Marks. All but one of these works (Koetsier’s Romanza) are from the 21st century, and any would make a great addition to a recital. Please check them out, and consider programming them in the future. I’ve included some abbreviated program notes about each work, as well as links to more information about the composers.

Imaginings for Horn and Piano by Dorothy Gates

Dorothy Gates was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and holds degrees in Composition and Trombone Performance from Queens University Belfast, the University of Michigan, and the University of Salford. Her principal composition teachers were Kevin Volans, George Wilson, Joseph Turrin and Peter Graham. She has produced works in many genres, which have been performed in concert halls throughout the world. In addition, she is the Senior Music Producer for The Salvation Army’s Eastern Territory in New York and has been the Composer-in-Residence for the New York Staff Band since 2002. Dorothy is the first woman Composer/Editor to be employed by The Salvation Army in this role. Imaginings was composed for and premiered by Michelle Baker, recently retired 2nd horn of the Metropolitan Opera in 2017 at the 25th International Women’s Brass Conference.

http://www.dorothygates.com/

Romanza for Horn and Piano by Randall Faust

Dr. Randall E. Faust is a Professor of Music at Western Illinois University, where he teaches applied horn and performs with the Camerata Woodwind Quintet and LaMoine Brass Quintet. In addition, he has served for many years on the Summer Horn Faculty at the Interlochen Center for the Arts. His many fine compositions for brass have been performed throughout the world and recorded numerous times. He writes the following about his Romanza for Horn and Piano:

In 1994, I was commissioned by Randy Gardner to compose a Quartet for Four Horns for a compact disc he was producing for Summit Records in collaboration with Michael Hatfield, Douglas Hill, and David Krehbiel. This Romanza was one of the four movements of that Quartet. In the Fall of 2016, I created this horn and piano setting of the Romanza for a series of recital performances I was planning for the 2016-2017 academic year.

http://www.faustmusic.com/

Romanza for Horn and Piano, by Jan Koetsier

Though relatively little known in the United States – except among brass players –Dutch-born composer, conductor, and professor Jan Koetsier (1911-2006) is well-regarded throughout Europe, and especially in Munich, Germany, where he served as professor of conducting at the Hochschule für Musik (Music Academy) 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 instrument. Composed during the same year as the Sonatina (Op. 59, No. 1), the Romanza was first performed in 1985. In this brief yet effective work, a contrasting scherzo-like central section is framed by a beautiful melody in the outer sections.

http://www.jan-koetsier.de/index_eng.php

Hunting Songs for Low Horn and Piano, by Brett Miller

Master Sgt. Brett Miller is principal hornist with The United States Air Force Band, Washington, D.C. Miller holds degrees from Youngstown State University, Indiana University, and the University of Maryland. In addition to his Air Force performing, he is a highly-regarded composer, having published over 30 works for various brass solo instruments and chamber ensembles. Commissioned by Denise Tryon for her debut solo recording So-Low, Hunting Songs is a very accessible and programmable piece for low horn and piano. Each of the brief movements evokes the titular birds of prey: serious and brooding (The Crow); tranquil and serene (The Owl); fast and nimble (The Falcon).

http://brassarts.contentshelf.com/product?product=I130801000001D14

Azure Dawn, by Frank Gulino

Frank Gulino, bass trombonist and composer, is highly regarded in the brass communities for his compositions, as well as his performance career. A graduate of The Peabody Conservatory, he earned a bachelor of music degree in performance. He has studied with members of the Baltimore, Boston, and New Jersey Symphonies. His compositions have been commissioned and performed across the world by euphonium virtuoso, Steve Mead, St. Louis Symphony bass trombonist Gerry Pagano, Atlanta Symphony bass trombonist, Brian Hecht, and members of the trombone section from the National Symphony in Washington D.C. His works are often chosen as solo competition pieces for the International Trombone Association and the International Tuba and Euphonium Association, as well as the Leonard Falcone International Euphonium and Tuba competitions, respectively. Azure Dawn is a visual and programmatic work, depicting the beautiful imagery of the Shenandoah Valley mountains during the sun rise.

http://www.frankgulino.com/index.html

Brief Review: Audrey Flores, Solo Horn Recording

This summer I was contacted by Audrey Flores, an active freelancer in New York City, with information about her recent solo recording with pianist Manon Hutton-DeWys. The self-titled album consists largely of standard 20th-century works, with the addition of a lesser-known but equally substantial piece, Barbara York’s Sonata for Horn and Piano. Here’s a complete list of the contents.

  • Reinhold Gliere, Four Pieces, Op. 35
  • Bernhard Krol, Laudatio
  • Barbara York, Sonata for Horn
  • Otto Ketting, Intrada
  • Trygve Madsen, Sonata for Horn, Op. 24

These are solid recordings of repertoire that every serious horn player needs to know, and Flores and Hutton-DeWys play with great style, tone, and phrasing. Even if you own other recordings, these are definitely worth a listen. The real gem on this album, though, is the Sonata by Barbara York. Composed in 2009 for Chief Musician Heather Doughty of the U.S. Coast Guard Band, this three-movement work is both lyrical and athletic, requiring plenty of technique, endurance, and flexibility. The third movement is given an especially impressive rendition by Flores, in what may very well be a world premiere recording. But don’t take my word for it – you can listen to the entire album on both Spotify and  YouTube. I love learning about new repertoire for the horn, and I’ll be adding the York Sonata to my list of recital program material for the near future. It’s worth noting that York has another work for horn and piano, the Arioso Gloria.

Bravo to Ms. Flores and her collaborators on this fine recording!

 

Summer Project: Solo and Chamber Music Repertoire List

One long-postponed project I began this summer was to create an annotated list of the solo and chamber music pieces I’ve performed over the last 20 years. I should have begun this project years ago, but my memory has generally been good enough to keep track of most of the details about my performances. Additionally, most of the information is preserved in the form of old programs in either electronic or hard copy format. I always told myself if I really wanted to know the last time I performed a work I could dig back through my files and find out. This is of course easier in theory than in practice, and the benefits of having all the info in a central place outweigh the time and effort it has taken to put it together.  It’s nothing fancy, just a Google doc that I can update as new works are added. It contains the following fields:

  • Composer
  • Title
  • Instrumentation
  • Year Performed

In the “Year Performed” field I’m also making a note if the work was performed at a conference and/or was commissioned by me. Here’s a small screenshot showing the first few entries. (If you would like to see the complete list please email me and I would be glad to send you a copy).

While I do have access to the majority of my solo and chamber music programs, the list is not complete, for a variety of reasons.

  • There are some works that I know I’ve performed, but don’t have documentation to prove it or to provide the year. These include works performed for studio and/or master classes, works performed on tours, and other situations where a printed program was not produced. I’m debating what to do about these works; perhaps I’ll just put the info down and give my best guess as to the year.
  • In most cases I did not include arrangements or occasional works like Christmas and other holiday selections. To keep the list to a manageable size I needed to draw the line somewhere. One exception to this is arrangements which are major works in the repertoire, like Robert King’s brass trio arrangement of the Beethoven Trio, Op. 87 for example.

If you don’t already have a list like this, I strongly recommend starting one, regardless of your level. It’s very easy to set up, and the information will come in handy for future recital programming and other endeavors. Trust me, the longer you wait, the more difficult the task will be!

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