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.

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.

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.

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).

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.

Friday Review: Characteristic Etudes by Jan Koetsier

This Friday we’ll look at a great collection of etudes by the Dutch composer Jan Koetsier (1911-2006). Like most of his other works, the 13 Etudes Caractéristiques, Op. 117 are published in Switzerland by Editions Marc Reift (cover image linked from their website). I first became acquainted with Koetsier’s music in high school, when a friend of mine performed his  Romanza, Op. 59/2 on a recital we shared at a local church. I went on to discover in college that Koetsier has a substantial number of solo and chamber works for horn.  Many of them have never been recorded, and over the past several months I’ve been working on a CD project which will feature his horn and piano works, his Sonata for Horn and Harp, and a selection of these characteristic etudes. Recording is scheduled for August, 2012, and I’m very excited about it!

I haven’t decided for sure which of the thirteen etudes I want to include on the recording, but I’ve been practicing six or seven which seemed like they would work best.  The collection is organized into three sets of four etudes, with one “bonus” etude at the end. Each set is designed to focus on a particular area of horn playing; the first set is melodic, the second set rhythmic, and the third set technical. The final etude, subtitled Drolatique or “Humorous,” is really an unaccompanied solo which combines challenges from all three of the previous sets. The etudes are somewhat progressive in difficulty, and I would rate their general difficulty somewhere around Maxime-Alphonse Book 4. The etudes tend to be shorter than those found in the later Maxime-Alphonse books, and for the most part are tonal with a good bit of chromaticism. They  emphasize the middle and high range, with a few excursions into the low register. The overall range is G to c”’.  Koetsier’s music can be quite challenging, and he does a good job of systematically challenging the player with these etudes. One of my favorites – which I plan to record – is based on rhythms from the “Sacrificial Dance” found in Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring. Radek Baborák has recorded this one on the album Baborák Plays Etudes, but to my knowledge this is the only etude from the collection that’s been recorded thus far. The melodic etudes are quite beautiful, with long phrases and some large leaps. The rhythmic etudes include dotted rhythms, meter changes, and hemiolas, and the technical etudes have really pushed my technique to get them up to the indicated tempos. Overall this is a very fine collection of studies, well worth adding to your library.

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