Review : 12 Jazzy Etudes, 10 Jazzy Etudes, and 15 Low Horn Etudes, by Ricardo Matosinhos

This summer it was my pleasure to carry on some correspondence with Portuguese horn player and teacher Dr. Ricardo Matosinhos. During the course of our discussions, Ricardo was gracious enough to write a review of my new CD, as well as send me copies of his publications 12 Jazzy Etudes for Horn, 10 Jazzy Etudes for Hornand 15 Low Horn EtudesWith these three collections (published by Phoenix Music), Ricardo has created a substantial addition to the etude repertoire, building upon what already exists as well as exploring new territory. He writes the following in the Preface to 12 Jazzy Etudes.

These etudes were written with the aim of filling a gap in the Horn repertoire. Usually advanced etudes for horn are too difficult in many different aspects at once. In these etudes I used different scales and modes with some extended techniques, but always in an easy and funny way; if an etude is difficult or even very difficult in one aspect, it will be easy or even very easy in others. I dedicate these etudes to the Russian horn player Arkady Shilkloper and his music, whose influence will be easily identifiable in some of these etudes.

I have not played through all of the studies in these three collections, but I have played through several, as well as listened to Ricardo’s very fine recordings on his SoundCloud page. He performs his works with style, gusto, and monster technique! It is obvious from his playing that Ricardo has a complete command of the instrument, as well as a solid understanding of the jazz idiom. If you’re on the fence about purchasing any of these books I would start by listening to the recordings – here’s No. 1, “Crazy Steps” from 10 Jazzy Etudes, the second volume of studies.

Catchy, isn’t it?  I have worked on this one a bit, and it is just as fun to play as it is to hear. Overall, the second book of studies is more approachable than the first, especially if you are new to jazz rhythms, jazz articulations, and several kinds of extended techniques. However, if you like challenges, go ahead and dive right into 12 Jazzy Etudes. You’ll find rhythms in the style of Messiaen, tuneful melodies in a variety of modes, and extended techniques like singing, tapping on the bell, microtones, and more! I highly recommend first listening to the recordings and reading the comments and suggestions provided (these are found in all three books). In some ways Ricardo’s music reminds me of Douglas Hill’s jazz-inspired compositions; they are difficult, but well worth the effort it takes to learn them.

15 Low Horn Etudes is the newest of the three, and is dedicated to Sarah Willis, 4th Horn in the Berlin Philharmonic. There are some very fine low horn studies out there – Neuling’s 30 Special Etudes for Low Horn, Marvin McCoy’s 46 Progressive Exercises for Low Horn, Douglas Hill’s Low Range for the Horn Player, and more – and 15 Low Horn Etudes is well deserving of a place among them. They of course emphasize the low register, but also call for extended techniques, lots of flexibility, and the ability to read some complex rhythms. And I would also add that many of the studies in all three books could make very nice unaccompanied works for a recital or other performance.

In closing I also highly recommend Ricardo’s website: he is hosting a competition for performances of his etudes, has compiled an annotated catalog of horn etudes, and recently updated his extensive list of horn theses and dissertations. Well done Ricardo, and keep up the great work!

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