James Chambers Plays the Ralph Hermann Concerto

To continue this series of posts on classic LP horn recordings is James Chambers Plays the French Horn, also recorded in 1960 and produced by the Grand Award Record Corporation.  James Chambers played Principal Horn with the New York Philharmonic for many years, and also taught at the Juilliard School and Manhattan School of Music.  The album is an eclectic mix of repertoire, including a number of pieces that were at one time popular but have become obscure over the years.  Here’s the complete list:

A. Corelli, Sonata in F Major; L. Mozart, Concerto; M. Bradford-Anderson, March, in Canon; M. Poot, Sarabande; R. Hermann, Concerto for Horn; R. Clerisse, Chant, Sans Paroles; L. Piantoni, Air de Chasse; V. Bakaleinikoff, Cavatina; B. Heiden, Sonata for Horn and Piano

One particularly interesting piece is the Concerto for Horn by Ralph Hermann.  According to the website http://www.horn-and-band.info/, the work was “The first full concerto originally written for solo horn with concert band,” and “was a collaborative project with James Chambers and the American School Band Directors’ Association.”  Looking at the LP notes, there is some additional information on the piece itself and the premiere performance.

This concerto was written for Mr. Chambers by the contemporary American composer, Ralph Hermann, and was given its first public performance at the annual meeting of the American Bandmasters Association on March 9th, 1957 in Pittsburgh, with the accompaniment being furnished by the United States Air Force Band. The Finale, which is recorded here, employs a two octave range, has an extended cadenza and calls for a high level display of French horn virtuosity.

On this recording all of the accompaniment is competently provided by a pianist, who is unfortunately not listed (from what I can see) anywhere on the record. The horn playing is, as one would expect, spectacular, especially for a recording made in the age before digital splicing. Chambers has a huge, liquid sound, and his tone quality and overall approach are still emulated by many players. The concerto itself is a nice piece, and looks very playable.  If you’re looking for something by an American composer to include on a recital or for a solo performance with band, consider the Concerto for Horn by Ralph Hermann. Unfortunately this recording is no longer in print, and the piece itself may be out of print too, although several university libraries probably have them both.  Here are two short clips from the Finale – the solo cadenza from the beginning of the movement, followed by the end of the movement, including a nice ossia high c# as the penultimate note.

Clip 1

Clip 2

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