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…

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