Spring 2018 Semester Preview

Lots of great horn and brass-related events coming up this semester! Details below.

Brass Day at ULM: On February 2, Dr. Stacie Mickens, Associate Professor of Horn at Youngstown State University, will be our featured artist for this free one-day clinic open to all brass players. In addition to a recital by the featured artist, Brass Day will also include clinics, small and large ensemble rehearsals, and a finale concert. For more details, visit http://ulm.edu/music/brassday.html

Black Bayou Brass Recruiting Tour: This spring we’ll be performing at several schools throughout Louisiana. Follow our Facebook page for the latest info on our performances.

Woodwind Quintet: While I get to do a wide variety of playing – solo, chamber, and orchestral – one area where I’ve wanted to do more performing but haven’t is wind quintet. There are so many great wind quintet compositions out there ranging from the Classical through 21st Century, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the few wind quintet performances I’ve done over the years. This semester I will be performing with a new woodwind quintet composed of various music educators in the area. We have recitals scheduled in two venues on April 9 and April 30, and I’m really looking forward to it! More info on this group in a future post.

Brass Trio Recording Project – Phase 2: Now that we’ve wrapped up the recording portion of our album, we’ll be moving on to the editing, mastering, and final production phases. I’ll post more updates on this site as things progress.

Orchestral Performances: Lots of great rep coming up with the various performing groups I am fortunate to be a member of: Brahms Symphony No. 4, Schubert Symphony No. 9, de Falla Suite from The Three Cornered Hat, and a brass choir concert with the Shreveport Symphony featuring works by Michael Daugherty, Giovanni Gabrieli, Aaron Copland, Karel Husa, Joan Tower, and Benjamin Britten, to name a few.

Solo Performances: Last, but certainly not least, I’ll be rounding out my semester with two solo performances, Mozart’s Horn Concerto, K. 447 with the Monroe Symphony Orchestra (April 28), and Pele, by Brian Balmages, with the ULM Wind Ensemble (April 19). I’ll post more about my preparation for these performances as we get closer to April.

Looking ahead to summer 2018, I’ll be performing with my colleagues in July at the International Trombone Festival. Our recital will feature original works for low brass trio (horn, trombone, and tuba). You guessed it, more on this in a future post!

While our semester has gotten off to a slow start because of fierce winter weather across the region, we’ll be back up and running very soon. In the meantime, I want to wish my colleagues in the South (and everywhere else) a safe and productive start to the semester.

 

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Faculty Recital Recordings and Upcoming Posts

October was a very busy month, with a performance or other professional obligation every weekend. November will be a little lighter, which should allow me to post more regularly…at least until December. In early October Richard Seiler and I presented a recital entitled Old Wine in New Bottles: Transcriptions for Horn and Piano. The performance went very well, and I’m pleased to share videos of a few works from the program. All but one  were my own arrangements, which I am planning to record for a forthcoming recording project. More on that later.

First up is my version of Weber’s Romance. For program notes please refer to the link above, but in short the piece  – which is attributed to Weber and often performed by trombone players – works quite nicely on horn. The horn part is not terribly difficult, but does tend to emphasize the low range. It is published and available through Cimarron Music Press.

Next is my take on Ravel’s Vocalise-Etude en Forme de Habanera, originally for voice, but transcribed for numerous other instruments. Not yet published, but coming soon!

The last excerpt from our program is Robert Schumann’s Fantasiestücke, Op. 73, in a wonderful arrangement by Kazimierz Machala. It’s a great piece, but not as difficult as the Adagio and Allegro, Op. 70. I’ve performed the Fantasiestücke multiple times over the years, and it is always rewarding to play.

One item worth noting in the videos is that I am standing by the keyboard, with my bell facing the audience. I have seen more and more horn players standing this way for solo recitals, so I decided to give it a try for this program. My usual position is turned about 180 degrees, in the bend of the piano. These two setups have their advantages and disadvantages, and it is worth trying both as well as other variations. Much depends on the size and acoustics of the hall, but in general I liked being closer to the keyboard for ensemble reasons as well as getting more clarity of sound.

Looking ahead to future posts for this blog, I have a sizable backlog of items for review, including recordings, books, and a new horn!

Upcoming Recital: Transcriptions for Horn and Piano

faculty-recital-poster-10-4-2016On October 4th at 7:30 p.m., my colleague Richard Seiler and I will be giving a faculty recital entitled “Old Wine in New Bottles: Transcriptions for Horn and Piano.” While fun and musically rewarding to prepare, this recital is also being given in preparation for a forthcoming recording project featuring many of the same works. Here’s the program:

  • The Maid of the Mist, Herbert L. Clarke (1867-1945)
  • Adagio from Clarinet Concerto in A Major, K. 622, W.A. Mozart (1756-1791)
  • Six Studies in English Folk-Song, Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958)
  •  Romance, Carl Maria von Weber (1786-1826)
  • Meditation from Thaïs, Jules Massenet (1842-1912)
  •  Vocalise-Etude en Forme de Habanera, Maurice Ravel (1875-1937)
  •  Fantasiestücke, Op. 73, Robert Schumann (1810-1856)/Transcribed and Edited by Kazimierz Machala

With the exception of the Schumann, all of the above were transcribed by me, and several have been published through various outlets. The Schumann isn’t slated to be on the CD; instead I have some chamber music arrangements that will be recorded in addition to the solo works. If you would like to know more about the program, I’ve included some notes below. I’m really looking forward to this recital as well as the recording project. Stay tuned for more details.

Program Notes

Transcription: The adaptation of a composition for a medium other than its original one, e.g. of vocal music for instruments or of a piano work for orchestra, a practice that began in Western music by the 14th century; also the resulting work.

~The New Harvard Dictionary of Music, ed. Don Randel

Musicians have been borrowing music from one another for hundreds of years. J.S. Bach transcribed Vivaldi’s violin concertos for the organ, and Franz Liszt transcribed Beethoven’s symphonies and Schubert’s Lieder for the piano. These adaptations served not only to enrich the repertoire for their respective instruments, but also to educate and inform them as composers and performers. None of the music on this program was originally intended for the horn, but it is my hope that you will still enjoy hearing it.

Widely regarded as one of the great cornet soloists, Herbert Lincoln Clarke performed with John Philip Sousa’s band, the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, and the New York Philharmonic. In addition to his long and illustrious performing career, Clarke is best remembered for his many compositions and Technical Studies for the cornet. Published in 1912, The Maid of the Mist is named for the famous steam-boat used for tours of Niagara Falls, and features some of the rapid articulations and playful turns of phrase for which Clarke was famous.

Dating from the final year of his life, Mozart’s Concerto for Clarinet, K. 622 was written for his friend and fellow Freemason Anton Stadler (1753-1812). Though the rapid passages found in the first and last movements of the concerto do not lend themselves well to even the modern horn, the gorgeous lyrical writing in the Adagio second movement does. Mozart clearly had a love for the horn, as evidenced by his four concertos and other solo works for the instrument. If the horn of Mozart’s day had been capable of playing such melodic material, perhaps he would have composed similar passages for it.

With his fellow countryman Gustav Holst, Ralph Vaughan Williams is often credited with leading a “Renaissance” of English music in the early part of the 20th century. Though he did make use of modern techniques such as polytonality, Vaughan Williams was especially inspired by English folk song and the modal melodies of his predecessors from the 16th and 17th centuries. Originally composed for cello and piano, his Six Studies in English Folksong have been set for many other instruments, including violin, clarinet, oboe, tuba, and horn. These brief but hauntingly beautiful melodies make excellent studies in both phrasing and tone production.

Though the title “Romance” does appear a few times in the catalog of Weber’s works, there appears to be no such composition for trombone and piano. Is it an unpublished work by Weber that was not cataloged, or perhaps the work of another composer? It is doubtful that the piece was even written for the trombone! Despite its obscure history, the dramatic melodies and quasi-operatic character of this Romance make it an effective and rewarding work to perform.

Jules Massenet’s opera Thaïs is one of the composer’s most performed works. It tells the story of Thaïs, an Alexandrian courtesan and worshiper of Venus, who converts to Christianity. Among the most recognized excerpts from the opera is the “Mediation” for violin and orchestra performed between the scenes of the second act. Though brief in length, it is full of lyricism and emotion.

A gifted musical chameleon, Maurice Ravel displayed equal skill with impressionist, neoclassic, and exotic elements in his compositions. Igor Stravinsky famously derided Ravel as “the most perfect of Swiss watchmakers,” but is in fact this precision, craftsmanship, and attention to detail that have made his works so memorable. Originally for voice, the Vocalise was commissioned by the Paris Conservatory and is patterned after the famous Cuban dance known as the habanera.

Originally for clarinet (or cello) and piano, Robert Schumann’s Fantasiestücke (“Fantasy Pieces), Op. 73 consist of three movements unified by motivic and thematic elements. Schumann gave the same title to three other works in his catalog, all of which have an improvisatory, fanciful character. At times dreamy and contemplative, at others fiery and impetuous, these pieces are both challenging and enjoyable to perform.

New Book: Solo Training for Horn

Solo Training HornI’m pleased to announce that my new book, Solo Training for Horn, is now available from Mountain Peak Music. If you follow my blog you probably have heard about this project already, but in case you haven’t, here is a brief summary of the book and its contents.

Solo Training for Horn is designed to help you meet challenges found in eight popular solo works. When practiced regularly and intelligently, these studies will provide the foundation for successful performance of the works on which they are based, and other repertoire as well.

This collection consists of 12-15 studies per solo, each one focused on a relatively short passage or collection of passages. Literal repetition is generally avoided in favor of varied and progressive repetition. Most studies begin from a point of ease, and gradually progress to extremes, often going above and beyond what is required in the original works.

Works include: Sonata, Op. 17 by Ludwig van Beethoven, Villanelle by Paul Dukas, Concerto No. 1, Hob. VIId:3 by Franz Joseph Haydn, Concerto, K. 495 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Morceau de Concert, Op. 94 by Camille Saint-Saëns, Adagio and Allegro, Op. 70 by Robert Schumann, Concerto, Op. 8 by Franz Strauss, and Concerto in D, TWV 51:D8 by Georg Philipp Telemann.

And if you would like to hear a few excerpts from the book, here are two promotional videos.

As with my previous publication for Mountain Peak Music, writing Solo Training for Horn was an incredible learning experience. I hope that teachers and students of the horn find it a practical and effective addition to their repertoire of etudes and exercises. If you have any questions about the book or the writing process I would love to hear from you.

What’s next? Once the semester begins I will return to at least semi-regular blogging, and continue preparations for a recital coming up in early October (more on that later). I have a few bigger projects on the horizon, but for now am gearing up for the new academic year.

Coming Soon From Mountain Peak Music: Solo Training for Horn

I’m long overdue for a new post and an update on my forthcoming publication from Mountain Peak Music, but with the end of the semester now in sight I can finally carve out some time to remedy that! In short, the first draft of Solo Training for Horn is over 50% complete, and I anticipate finishing it by the end of August. Intended as a companion to Solo Duet Training for Horns, this book will contain exercises and routines specifically designed to help players tackle challenges found in eight standard horn solos. As with the previous book, all of the works are in the public domain. There is some overlap with the duets, but there are also plenty of new pieces as well. Here is the list:

  • Beethoven, Sonata, Op. 17
  • Dukas, Villanelle
  • Haydn, Horn Concerto No. 1, Hob. VIId:3
  • Mozart, Horn Concerto, K. 495
  • Saint-Säens, Morceau de Concert, Op. 94
  • Schumann, Adagio and Allegro, Op. 70
  • Telemann, Horn Concerto in D, TWV 51:D8
  • F. Strauss, Concerto, Op. 8

Though there are some commonalities between the duet book and this one, I found my work on Solo Training to be much more involved and thus slower. While the material is of course largely based on the works listed above, creating these derivative exercises required a different mindset and approach than the earlier book. To help explain and demonstrate some of these exercises, I put together a brief video to accompany this post. FYI, I will be giving an expanded version of this presentation at the 48th International Horn Symposium in Ithaca, NY this summer. The presentation won’t be an advertisement for my book, but will instead focus on ways you can use some of the same techniques to create your own derivative exercises. These are not new ideas, but I think that students and teachers will find them especially useful because they are now organized and collected in one place.

Fragmentation/Transposition: Taking a short motive or motives from a challenging passage and transposing it to different keys. This builds more comprehensive technique and greater awareness of the intervals than simply repeating the same passage at the written pitch level. For example, mm. 96-102 from the first movement of Beethoven’s Horn Sonata, Op. 17…

beethoven…can be adapted into the following progressive exercise:

beethoven_exercisesHere’s a demonstration of the complete exercise.

a la Kopprasch: This means taking a familiar pattern and changing the rhythm and/or articulations to create a more engaging and challenging exercise. For example, this triplet passage from the Villanelle by Paul Dukas…

dukasbecomes:

villanelle_exerciseAnd here it is demonstrated.

Flow Study: Removing all but the most important notes from a lyrical or technical passage, and reducing it to a flow study. Notes are gradually added, while maintaining the same basic melodic shape and direction to the air stream. Transposing the exercise to other keys makes it more useful and interesting to practice. The familiar opening of Mozart’s K. 495…

mozart1

Becomes:

mozart_exercise

Here’s the video.

Here are two more examples which combine several strategies. Both are based on this passage from K. 495.

mozart2

The first exercise deals with a small portion of the phrase:

mozart_exercise2

And now the video:

The second exercise deals with the passage as a whole, with varying rhythms and articulations.

mozart_exercise3

And the video.

I hope this brief introduction to Solo Training for Horn has whet your appetite for more, and if you like any of the exercises presented above feel free to print them for your own use. The book will have many more exercises and routines, roughly 12-15 for each solo work. I’m very excited about completing the book, and look forward to sharing it with the horn playing community. Stay tuned for more updates!

60 Years of Strauss 1 Recordings!

**See the end of this post for supplementary information.

This is a project I have wanted to put together for some time, and have been slowly plugging away at it over the last few weeks. Inspired by this video of the opening chords of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3, I thought it would be fun to do the same thing with one of our most often performed solo works, the Concerto No. 1 for Horn and Orchestra by Richard Strauss. The result is a montage of styles, sounds, and interpretations, culled from recordings made over the last 60 + years, 1947-2010. This famous opening is among the most recognizable in the horn’s repertoire, and is a perennial requirement for auditions, competitions, recitals, etc. Most of the recordings are from my personal library, supplemented by a few from our music library. It was great fun putting this together, and I hope that viewers find it interesting and useful.  Here are a few caveats/items of interest about the compilation.

  • I think all of the recording dates are correct, although with iTunes purchases the recording date is not always included with the digital format. The only recording that I couldn’t find a date for was the earlier (I presume) recording by Hermann Baumann and the Cologne Symphony. After a bit of digging, I found that he first recorded the Strauss concertos in 1983 with Kurt Masur and the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra. So, this suggests that the other recording is of a live performance that wasn’t commercially released prior to the CD release in 2009. **Update: the date of this recording is 1974. For more information, see Joseph Ognibene’s excellent article “Hermann Baumann: The Master’s Voice” in the October 2013 Horn Call.
  • The wide variety of sound colors and interpretations is really fun to hear back to back, especially each player’s rendering of the forte dynamic.
  • One other note is that Dale Clevenger appears twice in this video, once as a soloist (1998), and once as a conductor (2005).
  • My liner notes for the 1947 Brain recording say that this was the first recording of Strauss 1, but it would be interesting to try and find anything earlier, even from non-commercially released recordings. Anyone got any leads?

Update: At the (excellent) suggestion of my friend and colleague Daren Robbins, I’ve included links to purchase each of the recordings used in this project. They are all readily available, and of course highly recommended! You can also listen to the sound files of each player individually.

 

 

 

Kickstarter Horn Solos Project

Several months ago I contributed to a fundraising project on Kickstarter created by Jay Anderson, a software engineer and horn player. Anderson’s goal was to create clean, accurate type settings of several dozen public domain works for horn. For more information about his project, follow this link. In short, the project was fully funded, and Anderson delivered a great product with these new editions. The engraving is crisp and clean, and very easy to read. The PDF files display quite well on a tablet device, but I’m also looking forward to the printed and bound volume, which is scheduled for delivery later this year. The collection contains a good bit of the standard solo repertoire, but what interested me the most about Anderson’s project were the pieces I didn’t know. I’ve compiled a list of those works below, along with links to brief bios and copies of the scores on IMSLP. Be aware that these are not the new, and far superior, type settings created by Anderson. While I had heard of a few of the composers on this list, I was not familiar with any of their horn music. While these works probably won’t take the place of Strauss or Mozart in our repertoire, they would make excellent additions to recitals, and I could easily imagine an entire lecture recital or recording project devoted to them (“Forgotten Solo Horn Works from the 19th Century”, or something like that). Because of their relative obscurity, very few of these works have been recorded (one notable exception is Felix Draeseke’s Romanze for Horn and Piano – see the link below). Bravo and thanks to Jay Anderson for making this largely forgotten repertoire more accessible to today’s horn players!

Recording Review: Jeffrey Lang, One World Horn

I downloaded this new recording a few months back, but have only just now gotten around to writing a review. One World Horn: A Solo Horn Journey, features Jeffrey Lang, Associate Principal Horn of the Philadelphia Orchestra, performing a variety of unaccompanied works from around the world (cover image linked from http://www.jeffrey-lang.com). There are some great horn alone recordings out there – albums by Eric Ruske (Just Me and My Horn) and Michelle Stebleton (Marathon: Music for Horn Solo) immediately come to mind – so what makes One World Horn worth adding to your collection? One reason is that 100% of the proceeds from sales of the recording go to charitable causes, including the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen, Villages in Partnership, and the American Red Cross. To my knowledge this is a first for solo horn recordings, and although I don’t know Mr. Lang personally, he must be an incredibly generous and giving person to devote his time and considerable talents to a project of this nature. Another reason is the unique repertoire found here. There are several of the standards in the unaccompanied literature – Amram’s Blues and Variations for Monk, Krol’s Laudatio, Arnold’s Fantasy for Horn, Ketting’s Intrada, Kogan’s Kaddish, and Buyanovsky’s Russian Song – all performed expertly, with a great sound and rock solid technique. But there are also some pieces you probably can’t find anywhere else. In addition to the standards mentioned above, Lang has included original and arranged works from Japan, Finland, Cuba, Malawi, and The United States. Also very interesting (and new to me) are two movements from Charles Koechlin’s The Secrets of a Clarinet Player Op. 141 (also translated as The Confessions of a Clarinet Player). I was able to dig up a bit of information on the entire work on the Hanssler Classic website. Here’s a brief quote by Richard Kaplan, writing for Fanfare magazine.

The suite from Les confidences d’un joueur de clarinette (“The Confessions of a Clarinet Player”) is a set of vignettes intended for a film project that was never realized. (Koechlin was intensely interested in this new medium; as many readers will know, his Seven Stars’ Symphony has nothing to do with things cosmic, but rather portrays early Hollywood celebrities. ) Many are for clarinet unaccompanied; since the protagonist’s friend is named Waldhorn, several other movements are for clarinet and horn.

Of these non-standard unaccompanied works, my favorites are Gule Wamkulu (“Big Dance”) from Malawi, arranged by Mr. Lang, and a Contradanza from Cuba by Paquito D’Rivera. The Contradanza in particular shows off the effortlessness with which Mr. Lang negotiates the entire range of his horn (a Yamaha triple in this case, I presume), and it really grooves too! My only regret with purchasing this recording by digital download is not having access to the liner notes. It would have been very informative to have some additional background information on the less familiar works. If you don’t own any unaccompanied horn recordings, or even if you own several, be sure to check out One World Horn.

Solo Bucket List

Over the past several years I’ve been compiling a “bucket list” of solo works that I have previously worked on, but never performed. Some of them are major works in the repertoire that for one reason or another I haven’t yet had the opportunity to perform, while others are less well known but still worthwhile. A solo bucket list comes in very handy when programming recitals, especially if I am looking for one or two more works to fill out a program. At some point in the future it might also be really fun to put together an entire recital from the list. Here’s a small sampling of my list, in no particular order.

  • Ferdinand Ries, Sonata in F
  • Francis Poulenc, Elegie
  • Eric Ewazen, Sonata
  • Richard Bissell, Lone Call and Charge
  • Paul Basler, Canciones
  • Douglas Hill, Song Suite in Jazz Style
  • Carl Maria von Weber, Concertino
  • G.P. Telemann, Concerto in D
  • Camille Saint-Säens, Romance, Op. 67 (Not the more common Op. 36 Romance)
  • Christoph Förster, Concerto in E-flat
  • Benjamin Britten, Serenade for Tenor, Horn, and Strings
Ries_1

I practiced some of these pieces quite extensively in graduate school but never performed them – Douglas Hill’s Song Suite, for instance – but others I’ve really only read through a couple of times, like the Sonata in F by Ferdinand Ries (cover image at left). Ries was a contemporary of Beethoven, and there are some striking similarities between their horn sonatas. It’s a great piece in its own right, and is definitely near the top of my “to be performed soon” list. One interesting note about my copy is the signatures on the cover. This copy belonged first (I assume) to John Barrows, and then Nancy Becknell, who taught alongside Douglas Hill at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. During my doctoral studies Ms. Becknell donated several boxes of music to Professor Hill’s current horn students, and I was lucky enough to get my hands on this edition of the Ries sonata.

If you haven’t started putting together your own bucket list you might want to do so, as it can come in handy later in your career. And of course you don’t have to stop at solo works. Feel free to include chamber music and other appropriate literature as well. What’s on your bucket list?

Audio, Video Updates

Although the Kopprasch Project is on hiatus until January, I’ve been adding a few videos to my YouTube Channel as well as updating the Audio and Job Listings pages on this site. The three most recent videos are selections from a recital at ULM on November 29th. Overall I was quite pleased with the outcome, and am looking forward to recording these and other works by Jan Koetsier in the very near future. Hopefully these videos will interest you in Koetsier’s music for horn – they really are nice compositions and would be great on any recital. If you want to hear more you’ll have to check out the CD! Look for a release sometime in Spring 2013.

Jan Koetsier,  Sonatina, Op. 59, No. 1 for Horn and Piano

Jan Koetsier, Romanza, Op. 59, No. 2 for Horn and Piano

Jan Koetsier,  13 Etudes Caractéristiques, Op. 117, VIII, Rythme comme “Le sacre du printemps”

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