IHS Symposium Report, Part 2

Here’s the second in my series of reports on the 44th International Horn Symposium in Denton, TX. As with yesterday, today’s schedule was packed with numerous performances, including my performance on one of the contributing artist recitals. The first event of the day for me was a clinic titled “Horn in the Woodwind Quintet,” presented by Nicholas Smith and the Lieurance Woodwind Quintet from Wichita State University. Professor Smith offered some very practical tips for horn players in wind quintets, and his points were expertly demonstrated by the group. Their program included a complete performance of Barber’s Summer Music, Op. 31, one of the standards in the wind quintet repertoire, as well as works by Jacques Ibert, Scott Joplin, and Anton Reicha. A couple of tips that really stood out to me were 1) horn players must often re-interpret dynamic markings to match the group and 2) an orchestral concept of sound and articulations really doesn’t work too well in a wind quintet. Using examples from their program, the quintet demonstrated each passage twice, the first time with the horn performing in a less desirable manner, and the second time in an ideal manner. One last comment that interested me was about equipment. Professor Smith said that since most of his work is in the Wichita Symphony, he plays a bigger, more orchestrally suited instrument (Paxman triple, I think). He said that he has tried switching to a lighter horn for the quintet, but it just doesn’t work for him. As a result, he has to be particularly sensitive when he plays in the quintet, adjusting his sound, dynamics, and articulations to emulate a lighter instrument. This was a great lecture, and if you haven’t heard the Lieurance Quintet before they have several CDs available on Amazon.

Next, I stopped by one of the exhibit rooms to purchase some music – one of my favorite things to do at conferences. Having already bought a good deal of solo and ensemble music earlier this year, I focused on methods and etude books. Two items I really look forward to working with are Randall Faust’s A Hornist’s Handbook of Studies for Flexibility and Technical Development, and Paul Basler’s two volumes of Etudes for Horn.  Check out a review of these etudes at Horn Matters. One other publication I picked up is a reprint of a short handbook by Christopher Leuba called The Rules of the Game. I’ve only thumbed through it a few times today, but it appears to be similar in some ways to The Art of Musicianship by Philip Farkas: i.e. it uses excerpts from the standard orchestral and solo repertoire to set out some basic principles of music making.

After lunch I squeezed in a little down time before playing on the 3:00pm contributing artists recital. Other performers and repertoire on that recital included:

All of these players (and their supporting artists) sounded fantastic – these were tough acts to follow! But overall I felt good about our performance of Jan Koetsier’s Sonata for Horn and Harp, Op. 94, and got some nice comments from people afterwards. It really is a well written piece, and horn and harp is a nice combination.

Changing gears completely from yesterday evening’s concert, tonight featured Andrew Clark, Steven Denroche, Paul Hopkins, and Bruce Atwell performing music for 2, 3, and 4 horns from the Baroque era. This was an entertaining and very informative concert, performed exclusively on period instruments. Andrew Clark was able to do things on the natural horn that would be difficult even with valves. My favorite work on the program was probably the Concerto in F Major by Johann David Heinichen. Heinichen was the court composer at Dresden in the early 18th century, and Clark informed the audience that Heinichen wrote this work for the first two full-time professional horn players (prior to them, trumpet players doubled on horn).

Due to some prior commitments in Monroe, tomorrow will be my last day in Denton. I plan to attend a lecture in the morning, so be sure to check back here in the next day or so for an update and some summary comments about my experience at this year’s symposium.

IHS Symposium Report, Part 1

As promised, here are a few thoughts from my first day at the 44th International Horn Symposium, hosted by Professor William Scharnberg and the University of North Texas College of Music. I arrived at the symposium this afternoon, and after registering and poking around briefly in a few exhibits, had a good rehearsal with my collaborator for tomorrow’s performance. I spent some more time perusing the exhibits, and will probably return tomorrow to buy some music. By this point it was around 4:00pm, so I left the symposium to check into my hotel and grab some dinner before the 7:30pm concert featuring the UNT Wind Symphony and several world class soloists.

The concert began with American Overture for band, by Joseph Willcox Jenkins. This well known work featured a beefed up horn section consisting of UNT students along with Frank Lloyd, Michael Morrow, Susan McCullough, and Marcia Spence. Following this rousing opener, Jennifer Montone impeccably performed Strauss 1, with the UNT Wind Symphony providing sensitive accompaniment. Bernhard Scully took the stage next, performing the Morceau de Concert by Saint-Saëns. Both these soloists displayed effortless technique and refined phrasing – and they also looked liked they were having a great time doing it! The first half closed with another band work, Festival Variations by Claude T. Smith. As in the Jenkins, the stacked horn section sounded fantastic.

The second half consisted primarily of two lesser known works in the horn repertoire. The Concerto for Four Horns by Carl Heinrich Hübler tends to be overshadowed by its flashier contemporary, Robert Schumann’s Konzertstück. However, the Hübler is still a very nice work, and gives each of the four soloists a chance to shine, without some of the treacherousness of the Schumann. The soloists for this evening’s performance were Tsun Tak Cheung (Principal Horn, Rheinische Philharmonie), Randall Faust, Peter Luff, and Michelle Stebleton.  Though clearly playing on different equipment, this international quartet performed very well together, and the concerto was full of exciting moments. The final soloist of the concert was Geoffrey Winter of the American Horn Quartet. He performed K’ville Skyline, a really cool but obscure work by Jay Wadenpfuhl (1950-2010, member of the Boston Symphony).  Mr. Winter explained just prior to his performance that Wadenpfuhl composed this concerto in 1981 for his good friend Jerry Peel, a well known studio horn player. The title is taken from the town of Kerrville, TX, where Wadenpfuhl and Peel both grew up. I really liked this piece, though the horn part sounded fiendishly difficult in places. Both the solo and accompaniment freely incorporate elements of jazz and popular music, and the overall effect is very enjoyable to listen to. The UNT Wind Symphony brought the concert to a close with the Marsch from Paul Hindemith’s Symphonic Metamorphosis after Themes by Carl Maria von Weber. Once again, the horn section was the star, a fitting conclusion to a concert at a horn symposium. It’s been a busy day, so I am going to turn in, but first, a big kudos and thank you to Bill Scharnberg and his staff for getting this year’s symposium off to a great start! More updates to come…

Recommended Podcasts

Audio and video podcasts are a convenient way to obtain information on several horn and brass-related topics.  Here’s a short list of my favorites, with annotations.

The Mellocast: Simply the most comprehensive podcast out there for middle brass instruments.  Over 100 episodes containing great material on horn, mellophone, alto horn, and more.

Melbourne University interview with Barry Tuckwell: Very nice interview with the legendary soloist.

Interview with Gene Standley, Principal Horn of the Columbus Symphony: Link courtesy of Bruce Hembd at Horn Matters.

NPR interview with Walter Lawson upon his retirement from custom horn making.

Minnesota Public Radio Interview with Bernhard Scully: Former member of the Canadian Brass, Principal Horn, Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, Visiting Professor, The University of Illinois.  Real Player required.

Brass Instruments, Open University on Itunes U: This is a great series!  Video podcasts on the history of brass instruments, including the development of valves, compensating systems, etc. Itunes required.

Performance by the Blair Brass Quintet, faculty brass quintet at Vanderbilt University. (Scroll down to find the link.)

Performance by the Yale University Faculty Brass Trio
(Scroll down to find the link.)

I’d love to hear if you know of any other horn or brass-related podcasts.

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