Upcoming Projects, Part 2: June Recording Session

cropped-412093_10151188927572199_2111445695_o4.jpgThis is the second in a series of posts about some upcoming activities this semester and beyond. You can read the first one here. In addition to my normal performing and teaching schedule, I’m very excited to be involved in two recording projects, the first slated for June 2017, and the second for January 2018. Here’s a brief description of the first one.

Music of Eurico Carrapatoso: I’m honored to be collaborating with colleagues Claire Vangelisti and Richard Seiler on a recording featuring the music of Portuguese composer Eurico Carrapatoso. Carrapatoso is well known in his native Portugal, and is beginning to get some exposure here in the U.S.  Vangelisti and Seiler will be recording several of his works for voice and piano, and I’ll be joining them for three soprano, horn, and piano works:

  • Duas porcelanas musicais
  • Sete melodias em forma de bruma
  • Dois poemas de Miguel Torga

All three are substantial, multi-movement compositions, with fun (and challenging!) horn parts. I’m planning to write more about the details of this project in a future post, and one interesting challenge for me in the preparation of the music has been the choice of equipment. Carrapatoso’s writing for horn tends to emphasize the high range, with lots of light, lyrical passages above the staff, often in harmony or in counterpoint with the voice. Here’s an example of one from the first movement of his Dois poemas de Miguel Torga:


And another one from his Sete melodias em forma de bruma:


While certainly playable on a standard double horn, these passages and others like them fit well on a descant horn. We performed the Sete melodias em forma de bruma at the 45th IHS Symposium in Memphis, and for that performance I used a Paxman 40M descant horn, on generous loan from a colleague in the Shreveport Symphony. I’m planning to use that same instrument for our recordings in June, although I’m not entirely sold on which mouthpiece to use. My normal mouthpiece, a Houser GS12, works pretty well, although I’m considering some other options tailored more for the high horn. Updates to come!




Recording Review: Orchestral Excerpts for Low Horn, by Eli Epstein

Although in my last post I mentioned that it might be the final one of 2014, I’ve recently acquired some great new recordings that I felt should be reviewed before the year’s end.

This week’s review begins with a short story. One of the first horn recordings I purchased was David Krehbiel’s Orchestral Excerpts for Horn, which I picked up in a Tower Records store in Charlotte, NC during my freshman year in high school. At the time I knew very little about orchestral music, let alone the important excerpts for horn, but something about the CD attracted me to it. Had it been a tape or LP I would probably have worn it out long ago, but thankfully the CD is still in great shape after countless playings over the last 20 years. In retrospect, I think this recording is what really made me fall in love with the sound of the horn, and it introduced me to some of the great orchestral parts for the instrument. My only regret was that Summit Records never pursued a sequel, though the important horn passages in orchestral music could surely fill up multiple discs. And while an entire album of unaccompanied horn playing might seem boring, or at the very least, esoteric to a general audience, I thought it was fantastic.

This brings me to the subject of today’s review, which is, as far as I’m concerned, a perfect sequel to the original horn excerpts CD. I’m a big fan of Eli Epstein, a former member of the Cleveland Orchestra, and a renowned horn pedagogue. I’ve reviewed his book, Horn Playing from the Inside Out, and his YouTube video on the finger breath, both of which address numerous pedagogical issues. What I like most about Epstein’s approach to the horn is the balance between technical and musical considerations. He not only explains how things should sound, but lays out a step-by-step process to help you achieve that sound. In Orchestral Excerpts for Low Horn, Epstein discusses and performs 21 low horn excerpts from the standard repertoire, providing a wonderful resource for teachers and students tackling these challenging passages. The accompanying website (www.epsteinhornexcerpts.com/), which includes pictures, diagrams, and links to recordings, is a great companion to his other pedagogical materials.

Of course, the real star is the recording itself. Though there are numerous valid approaches to these excerpts, you would be hard pressed to find more nuanced, musically substantial performances anywhere. Every note has a purpose, and every musical decision has a concrete, logical reason behind it, which is explained in the commentary preceding each excerpt. Mr. Epstein plays with a warm, fluid sound, with the just the right amount of brassiness when the music calls for it. Rhythm and intonation are impeccable, and these recordings would be great to play along with when preparing either the excerpts themselves or the corresponding first and/or third horn parts. Epstein’s enthusiasm and love for this repertoire come through clearly in his commentary and performances, and I highly recommend this recording to anyone who plays the horn. Whether you are studying these passages for the first time or are reviewing (or teaching) them for the umpteenth time, I am certain that you will be encouraged and inspired.

Kopprasch Project Continued, No. 14

After a week off, here’s your next Kopprasch installment.  This one can be quite challenging for a number of reasons, namely concentration, accuracy, and clarity of articulation.  Suggested tempo is quarter note=108-112.  Be careful on beat four in the first full measure after the repeat that you get low enough when slurring from the E at the top of the staff to the G below it.  It is really easy to clip that interval and get a B-flat instead of a G.  Keep the air moving, and relax.

Kopprasch Project continued, No. 6

Here’s your weekly dose of Kopprasch.  Recording things should get interesting in the next couple of weeks with the Southeast Horn Workshop coming up, as well as a recital and several orchestral and chamber music performances.  Actually, I am really enjoying going back over these etudes – trying to get them into shape for recording purposes forces me to pay very close attention to every detail, and as a result I’m getting more benefits out of each one.  Take, for instance, No. 6 below.

Though one might be tempted to worry about the high A, the real beauty of this etude is the work you get to do in the middle-low register.  Getting clarity of tone and articulation in the range just below the staff can be a challenge, especially at faster speeds.  Although it’s marked “Allegro vivace,” I think a tempo of around quarter note=92 is a good ballpark figure.  As always, make sure to exaggerate the dynamic changes.

Kopprasch Project Continued, No. 2

Continuing with the Kopprasch video project I started last week, this week we have No. 2.  Though similar in design to No. 1, this one moves primarily by leaps of a third or greater instead of in whole and half steps.  As you will notice from this week’s video,the lighting is much better due to a repositioned camera.  I’m still fiddling with placements for the external microphone, and I noticed a peculiar phenomenon during the recording yesterday.  My initial setup for recording was flipped 180 degrees from last week, with my bell facing directly towards the door and front wall of my office.  After trying a few takes with this setup, I wasn’t very happy with my sound, and I also was having more trouble than usual with fracking notes.  The notes seemed to be splitting in an unusual way, and I think this was in part because of “slap echo,” a type of harsh echo effect which Derek Wright discusses in this excellent post on making an audition tape.  Make of this what you will, but after slightly turning so that my bell wasn’t directly pointed at bare surfaces, the recording went much more smoothly.  I’d still like to get a bit more resonant sound in my office, but obviously things will be limited by the size and design of this space.  Although using the recital hall here is definitely an option, I like the convenience of being able to record whenever I want in my teaching studio.

Coming up next week, Etude No. 3 and a post on various editions of these etudes.

Etude Recording Project

A few months ago I posted on Craig Morris’s etude recording project,  and mentioned that I was planning my own project along similar lines using a well-known etude collection for horn.  After some thought, I’ve decided to go ahead with the project and record Kopprasch’s Sixty Selected Studies Op. 6, or at the very least all of Book 1.  My plan is to record one or two each Friday and then post them on YouTube the following week, with some blog posts along the way to offer some tips and advice for other players working on the etudes.  I considered several different etude collections – Kopprasch, Maxime-Alphonse, Bozza, and others – but I ended up going with Kopprasch for a few reasons.

1. Pretty much everyone who has played the horn for more than a few years has at least heard of the Kopprasch etudes, and they often  (along with other standard etude collections) form a core repertory of materials for horn study.

2. Practicing Kopprasch can be beneficial for players of varying abilities.  Whether it’s working on tone production and consistency, or perfecting transposition skills, I think Kopprasch holds an important place in the repertoire for students, amateurs, and professionals.

3. As a teacher, I wanted to provide a resource for my students and others so that they could at least hear one interpretation of these etudes, and use these recordings as a jumping off point for their own creative practicing.

4. Although there are several recordings online of Kopprasch etudes, to my knowledge no one has yet recorded all of Book 1 or Book 2 on video.

So, with those ideas in mind, I began the recording process this past Friday with Etude No. 1.  Already I’m noticing some of the benefits of this project for my own playing.  Working with an etude as simple as No. 1 (primarily half notes and quarter notes) forces one to listen very closely to every attack for consistency.  Even though I’d worked on No. 1 many times in the past, this was the first time I put it under the microscope, so to speak.  One of the more difficult things for me in recording this etude was maintaining consistency through a range of dynamic levels and across a fairly wide range.  Although the recording is by no means perfect, I do hope that the point comes across to students that you really should go for big contrasts in these etudes to get the most out of them.   Watching the playback from several of my takes was quite interesting as well.  Students might want to notice the changing angle of the leadpipe across the range from high to low.  I seem to have a particularly big “break” around low C, and I’ve been working on some exercises lately (Kopprasch among them) to get this transition as consistent as possible.  The repeats are not included, but I do recommend practicing Kopprasch with repeats to work on endurance.  Additionally, this project is forcing me to figure out how to use my recording equipment more effectively.  Though I do plan to record everything in my studio, I’ve already got some ideas for a slightly different recording setup next time.

Well, that’s all for now – I’ve embedded the YouTube video below so you can hear (and see) how the recording went.  In next week’s installment I plan to record No. 2 and possibly No. 3, as well as write a blog post on the edition of the etudes I’ll be using.

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