Weekend Report

Here’s a brief report from my busy weekend. The Shreveport Symphony rehearsals and concert went very well, including the 3rd horn solos in the Academic Festival Overture by Brahms. The other pieces on the program – Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1 and Dvořák’s Symphony No. 8 – weren’t as involved for the 3rd horn but still very enjoyable to play. Bravo to Tom Hundemer and Kristine Coreil (1st and 2nd horn on this concert) for their marvelous trills in the final movement of the Dvořák. The conductor asked them to play bells-up during the final statement of the trill passage, which probably wasn’t any louder but was an impressive visual effect for the audience. Soloist Vadim Gluzman gave an exquisite performance of the Bruch, which also had some very nice horn writing in all three movements. I couldn’t help thinking of Strauss’s Eine Alpensinfonie during the second movement – see for yourself (skip to 2:30 and 6:08 for the best examples). There are also some good horn solos in his Scottish Fantasy, and as a horn player I really wish Bruch had written a horn concerto!  There are some more fun concerts coming up for me in the next few weeks, and I’ll be posting updates about the repertoire for those programs.

On Sunday, the SSO held an audition for 2nd and 4th horn, and I was fortunate enough to win the 4th horn spot. I’ve subbed with this very fine orchestra numerous times in the past, and I’m really looking forward to performing with them as a regular member. Congratulations to Adam Black, who won the 2nd horn position. Adam is a graduate of Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, LA, where he studied with Dr. Kristine Coreil (regular 3rd horn in the SSO). Adam is currently a student of Randy Gardner at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music. Well done Adam!

For those who might be curious, you can check out the excerpt list here: SSO Horn Audition List

In preparing for this audition I spent a large part of my time working out of Randy Gardner’s book Mastering the Horn’s Low Register He covers most of the major excerpts that appear on low horn auditions, and provides suggestions and helpful exercises for perfecting each one. For the first several weeks of preparation I spent more time on the exercises than on the actual excerpts, which I think paid off in the long run. Constant practice with a metronome and a drone helped solidify rhythm and intonation. As the audition date got closer I practiced playing through the entire list, using flashcards to put things in a random order. Recording myself on several excerpts also helped provide some feedback. Another resource I used quite a bit in the last couple of weeks before the audition was Eli Epstein’s new book Horn Playing from the Inside Out.  His thoughts on auditions, dealing with performance anxiety, and numerous other topics were both practical and inspirational. A more extensive review of this book is forthcoming, I promise!

Brahms, Academic Festival Overture, 3rd Horn

This week I’m subbing on third horn with the Shreveport Symphony, for a program that includes Brahms’s Academic Festival Overture, Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1 (Vadim Gluzman, soloist), and Dvořák’s Symphony No. 8. There’s some great horn writing on the entire program, but I’ve been spending most of my practice time for this concert with the Brahms as there are a couple of brief solos and several other important passages for the third horn. Here’s a look at some of them (all four horn parts are available on IMSLP). *All excerpts are for Horn in E.

In the first big tutti section the third horn carries the melody, along with the strings and woodwinds.

Next is a chorale section with the woodwinds.

The next section contains a favorite passage for audition lists (and not just for third horn auditions).

Listening to several recordings on hornexcerpts.org, you’ll hear varying interpretations of the solo at m. 147, often with a ritard going into m. 149.  The third horn finishes an imitative section begun by the clarinet a few measures earlier. The passage at m. 181 can be quite fast, and I’ve actually had success using T12 for the written high G. It just seems to give me a little more facility going down to the written F and E afterwards. This passage is actually doubled by the violas.

Next is a section marked “gestopft,” although as John Ericson points out in this article at Horn Matters, Brahms was probably not asking for a brassy stopped horn in the modern sense, but something more akin to the handstopping used on the natural horn.

And last is another brief solo, doubled in the oboe. The difficulty with these kinds of solos is to pick up the line where the previous voice(s) left off, carry the tune for a couple of measures, and then pass it along seamlessly to the next voice.

It’s a great piece, and I’m looking forward to playing it – along with the Bruch and Dvořák – this week.

Opening Night with the Shreveport Symphony Orchestra

I apologize for my somewhat sporadic posts of late – things have been pretty busy around here!  I spent much of last week  in rehearsals with the Shreveport Symphony Orchestra for their season’s opening concert.  The program included Barber’s Adagio for Strings and Knoxville: Summer of 1915 on the first half, and Mahler’s Smphony No. 1  on the second half.  I got to play 6th horn on the Mahler, and had a great time. The horn section rose to the challenge, and I think the whole concert came off very well. The SSO is a wonderful orchestra, but like many similar organizations around the country has faced its share of economic challenges. Saturday night’s concert marked the orchestra’s official return after a prolonged, and sometimes tense, period of negotiations between the musicians and the orchestra’s management. As an occasional substitute player I am glad to see the orchestra back in action, and wish the musicians and their audiences many more years of fabulous performances.  For much more information on the orchestra’s contract negotiations, check out the website of Orchestra Players United of Shreveport-Bossier, the SSO musicians’ official organization, and the blog of Susan Rogers, longtime 2nd Horn in the SSO and a well known orchestral player in this area.  The above picture of the Mahler section is linked from her blog [Back row, L to R: Craig Pratt, James Boldin, Jeff Taylor, Thomas Hundemer. Front row, L to R: Susan Whipple Rogers, Angela Bagnetto-Finley, Kristine Coreil, Judith Causey].  I don’t really have too much to write about the Mahler except to say that it was a joy to play in such a great section.  I’ve performed the piece twice before, once at Brevard Music Center, and again at the Las Vegas Music Festival, and those were wonderful sections as well!  Thinking back over those two previous performances, Saturday’s concert shared a couple of things in common with them: 1) The section had very fine leaders in their principal horn players.  Dr. John Ericson (Associate Professor of Horn, Arizona State University) played principal on the Brevard concert, Charles Kavaloski (retired Boston Symphony Principal Horn)  played on the Las Vegas concert, and Thomas Hundemer played on the SSO concert.  All three of these players showed tremendous endurance and musicality in their playing, and generally helped to ensure that their horn sections sounded their best.   2) There is something very special about playing in a big horn section, especially on a piece like the Mahler.  I don’t know how else to describe it except to say that it’s really a wonderful feeling when everyone’s playing well and laying things down. Speaking of great performances of Mahler 1, be sure to check out Christoph Eschenbach leading the Orchestra de Paris in this live performance presented for free on Medici TV.

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