IHS Symposium Report, Part 2

Here’s the second in my series of reports on the 44th International Horn Symposium in Denton, TX. As with yesterday, today’s schedule was packed with numerous performances, including my performance on one of the contributing artist recitals. The first event of the day for me was a clinic titled “Horn in the Woodwind Quintet,” presented by Nicholas Smith and the Lieurance Woodwind Quintet from Wichita State University. Professor Smith offered some very practical tips for horn players in wind quintets, and his points were expertly demonstrated by the group. Their program included a complete performance of Barber’s Summer Music, Op. 31, one of the standards in the wind quintet repertoire, as well as works by Jacques Ibert, Scott Joplin, and Anton Reicha. A couple of tips that really stood out to me were 1) horn players must often re-interpret dynamic markings to match the group and 2) an orchestral concept of sound and articulations really doesn’t work too well in a wind quintet. Using examples from their program, the quintet demonstrated each passage twice, the first time with the horn performing in a less desirable manner, and the second time in an ideal manner. One last comment that interested me was about equipment. Professor Smith said that since most of his work is in the Wichita Symphony, he plays a bigger, more orchestrally suited instrument (Paxman triple, I think). He said that he has tried switching to a lighter horn for the quintet, but it just doesn’t work for him. As a result, he has to be particularly sensitive when he plays in the quintet, adjusting his sound, dynamics, and articulations to emulate a lighter instrument. This was a great lecture, and if you haven’t heard the Lieurance Quintet before they have several CDs available on Amazon.

Next, I stopped by one of the exhibit rooms to purchase some music – one of my favorite things to do at conferences. Having already bought a good deal of solo and ensemble music earlier this year, I focused on methods and etude books. Two items I really look forward to working with are Randall Faust’s A Hornist’s Handbook of Studies for Flexibility and Technical Development, and Paul Basler’s two volumes of Etudes for Horn.  Check out a review of these etudes at Horn Matters. One other publication I picked up is a reprint of a short handbook by Christopher Leuba called The Rules of the Game. I’ve only thumbed through it a few times today, but it appears to be similar in some ways to The Art of Musicianship by Philip Farkas: i.e. it uses excerpts from the standard orchestral and solo repertoire to set out some basic principles of music making.

After lunch I squeezed in a little down time before playing on the 3:00pm contributing artists recital. Other performers and repertoire on that recital included:

All of these players (and their supporting artists) sounded fantastic – these were tough acts to follow! But overall I felt good about our performance of Jan Koetsier’s Sonata for Horn and Harp, Op. 94, and got some nice comments from people afterwards. It really is a well written piece, and horn and harp is a nice combination.

Changing gears completely from yesterday evening’s concert, tonight featured Andrew Clark, Steven Denroche, Paul Hopkins, and Bruce Atwell performing music for 2, 3, and 4 horns from the Baroque era. This was an entertaining and very informative concert, performed exclusively on period instruments. Andrew Clark was able to do things on the natural horn that would be difficult even with valves. My favorite work on the program was probably the Concerto in F Major by Johann David Heinichen. Heinichen was the court composer at Dresden in the early 18th century, and Clark informed the audience that Heinichen wrote this work for the first two full-time professional horn players (prior to them, trumpet players doubled on horn).

Due to some prior commitments in Monroe, tomorrow will be my last day in Denton. I plan to attend a lecture in the morning, so be sure to check back here in the next day or so for an update and some summary comments about my experience at this year’s symposium.

CD Review: It’s All Relative

I saw an ad for this CD in the May 2010 issue of The Horn Call, and I was particularly interested for several reasons.  First, I had previously met and heard both performers play (more on that later), and it looked like a cool concept for a CD of horn music.   Susan McCullough and Jesse McCormick are the horn players on this recording, and they are also mother and son.  Susan teaches at the University of Denver and plays with the Denver Brass, and Jesse is second horn in the Cleveland Orchestra.  The CD includes a few solo works, but the main focus, as the album cover implies, is on duets.  Check out their page on CD Baby.com for more biographical information and a complete track listing for the album.  Also, the CD included a work by my  teacher from graduate school, Douglas Hill.  Going back to my first reason for being especially interested in this recording, in the summer of 2004 I had the opportunity to hear both performers at the Kendall Betts Horn Camp in New Hampshire.  They both sounded great then, and sound even better now!

I won’t go into detail about every track, but suffice it to say this is a fantastic recording.  The sound is both resonant and crystal clear.  In the duets blend and balance are superb, as one might expect from two people who have obviously played together for many years.  Some of the highlights are four Brahms songs arranged for two horns and piano, Hermann Neuling’s Bagatelle for horn and piano (performed by Jesse McCormick), and the Concertino for Two Horns and Orchestra [piano] Opus 45, by Friedrich Kuhlau.  The Neuling is becoming a more standard work in this country, and is quite a nice showpiece for low horn.  To my knowledge, this is one of the few recordings (the first?) by an American.  Jesse plays with a vibrant and rich sound in the low register, negotiating the runs and arpeggios with ease.  The Kuhlau is also a fairly rare work in the U.S., but perhaps this recording will help promote more performances of it.  Both parts are virtuosic, but the second horn is really the star, with rapid skips in and out of the low register.   Check out the recording if you haven’t already, it’s a great addition to any serious player’s library.

To close out this post I thought I’d continue with the theme from It’s All Relative – horn playing families.  How many full time players or teachers can you name with one or more close relatives who are or were also full time players and/or teachers?  Here are a few that come to mind.

[Father and Son] Forrest Standley (1916-1986), Principal Horn, Pittsburgh Symphony/Gene Standley, Principal Horn, Columbus Symphony (OH).

[Father and Daughter] Martin Hackleman, Principal Horn, National Symphony/Allene Hackleman, Principal Horn, Edmonton Symphony (Canada)

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