Boldin Plays Krol

Looking at the stats for this blog, one of the most popular posts is about Bernhard Krol’s Laudatio for Solo Horn. It is a great piece, and gets performed frequently by both students and professionals (cover image linked from sheetmusicplus.com). My initial idea with that post was to provide a bit of background information on Laudatio, and to hopefully point people in the right direction if they were looking for recordings and/or other resources. However, I forgot to include a couple of things in that article, one of them being a recording of me performing the piece on a guest recital at Appalachian State University in March, 2008. I remember feeling pretty good about that recital, and although the Krol isn’t perfect I think it’s a pretty convincing interpretation. The 16th notes near the end got a bit too fast – chalk that up to adrenaline – but overall I’m still happy with the pacing throughout. Here’s the recording.

There are a number of valid interpretations out there, and I think it’s very important to try several possibilities when putting together your own particular take on a piece. There are several wonderful recordings of Laudatio – I listed three in my earlier article – but the most inspiring performance I’ve ever heard was Hermann Baumann live at the Kendall Betts Horn Camp in 2004. Though Baumann was obviously still coping with some of the aftereffects of his stroke six years earlier, the performance was as engaging and musically satisfying as any I’ve heard. I especially remember being struck by his confident and commanding stage presence – he performed from memory as well!

Bernhard Krol’s Laudatio for Solo Horn

In this post on the Southeast Horn Workshop, I mentioned that Krol’s Laudatio was by far the most popular unaccompanied work during the first round of the college solo competition.  It has appeared on numerous competition lists, including the International Horn Competition of America.  For such a popular piece – at least among horn players – there seems to be very little in the way of program notes.  Having performed the work several times, I’ve put together a few notes on both the composer and the piece.  Most of my information was gleaned from CD liner notes, as well as this nice biography on the Boosey & Hawkes website. According to this online Latin dictionary, definitions of laudatio include “praise , commendation; a testimonial, a funeral oration.” Additionally, Laudatio has close ties with the early Christian Hymn (plain chant) Te Deum Laudamus, and the opening line of this text is  included within the piece.  Though it may not be a literal quotation, the melody at this point in the piece is very reminiscent of Gregorian chant, a connection that many performers often miss.  For yet another view on this work, here’s a quote from the liner notes to Michelle Stebleton‘s (Associate Professor of Horn at Florida State University) new CD Marathon: Music for Solo Horn. The recording is fabulous, by the way! Although I couldn’t find an indication, I presume that the notes were written by Professor Stebleton.

Bernhard Krol: Laudatio (1966)

Laudatio, written for Hermann Baumann, opens with a motif which represents a spiritual question. What follows is a journey, a search for understanding. The question reappears many times, often following the nearly-schizophrenic emotional roller coaster of musical events.  Prayer ensues twice, the question is asked again in fragmented form, and an authentic cadence brings the listener to the final answer.  For most horn students, this piece is among the first unaccompanied works studied and performed.  It appears regularly as a required piece for competitions.

Professor Stebleton has clearly given her approach to this work a lot of thought, and it certainly shows in her fine recording. It is even more crucial in unaccompanied works for the performer to have a well-defined plan, from individual phrases to the work as a whole (a topic I plan to cover further in a future post).  If you are working on this piece I highly recommend listening to several different recordings, as Laudatio comes off well with multiple interpretations. Here are a few links to recordings.

Marathon: Music for Solo Horn (Michelle Stebleton)

Just Me and My Horn (Eric Ruske)

Horn Voyage (Zbigniew Zuk)

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