IHS Brisbane 2010, Part IV: Judging, World Premieres, and More

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Wednesday was quite a busy day where I again had to make some choices.

I was planning to start the day by hearing Annie Bosler present “Happy chops, happy body” as not only was Annie a former student from Brevard days but also I knew she was working on issues such as this even back then and now is on the faculty of the pre-college division at the Colburn School. However, as there was a schedule conflict for a judge I was called in to be a judge for the Dorothy Frizelle Orchestral Audition Contest. Without giving away secrets on this in short we heard some fine playing and for me personally it was especially interesting as not only had the late Dorothy Frizelle actually worked on my horn in roughly 1985 when I was a Masters degree student (she was an instrument repairman at that time in Rochester, NY) but also I got to judge with Michael Hatfield who had been my major professor for my Doctorate.

After the judging I was only able to hear the last work on the recital of David Thompson, España by Buyanovsky. This he laid down impressively by memory and I am told that the whole recital was by memory and quite impressive. Bravo to Thompson. This was actually the end of the second (!!) recital of the day, having also missed the recital that was at 9:30.

Two more recitals after lunch

After lunch I had options and I chose to hear the 2:00 recital or at least most of it. Before I go on though so readers know my process in writing these posts, I have some notes laid out for each day from before the symposium, I take notes during the day, I write them up in the evening, and then post them after sleeping on them in the brief period a day I pay for Internet access (usually 45 minutes for $11). As I start writing the remainder of this post (offline!) I am looking at nine pages of notes in my little notebook; really there was a lot to hear today.

One subtitle of the recital this afternoon could be old-school Conn 8D players. Three of the contributing artists on this program came from the United States with vintage Elkhart 8Ds with fixed bells showing their dedication to the cause! The first was John David Smith from the University of Delaware. He played two works and his performance of the Planel Légende was very strong.

Next up was the first of a whole bunch of world premiere performances today, the Sonata by Johanna Murphy performed by Jeffrey Powers of from Baylor University and Loretta Bloomer. I have not been mentioning pianists and perhaps should be; she learned this new work on very short notice and it is I feel an engaging and substantial new work that was performed very well. This work was partially supported by the Meir Rimon Commissioning Assistance Fund as were others heard later in the day. It is exciting to hear a piece and realize that it has not been performed before and to get a strong first impression. Powers also played a vintage 8D and again it was a strong performance.

Back to the topic of first impressions, the very next work was the Australian premiere of the Quartet No. 1 by Anthony Plog. This was a consortium commission and is also for sure an interesting and substantial new work for horn. It was performed by Brent Shires (University of Central Arkansas, on a vintage 8D), Susan McCullough (University of Denver), J. Greg Davis (Houston), and Nancy Joy (New Mexico State).

The last group I heard was Brenda Luchsinger (Alabama State University [another ASU!]), Nicholas Kenney (Concordia University), Patrick Smith (Virginia Commonwealth University), and Kristin Smith (Virginia) playing two works by Michael Kallstrom. These were both given spirited and tight performances by the group, the second being the very interestingly titled Headbanger.

After Headbanger I was not quite to the point of banging my head but I did really need a little break and stepped out before the closing group, the Western Australia Academy of Performing Arts Horn Choir. Would have liked to have heard it but again this is the type of event that you really can’t hear it all.

The later afternoon recital was shared by Jeff Nelsen and Hiroshi Matsuzaki. Matsuzaki, Principal Horn of the NHK Symphony in Japan, opened the program with the Rheinberger Sonata, a work I enjoy hearing. As noted yesterday there is a setup issue with the big hall and while I have no doubt that he is a fine player with some great musical ideas, out in the audience for me honestly I don’t think he sounded his best. He sounded rather distant as his sound was mostly directed offstage; I would like to hear him again in another venue.

Nelsen took a different tactic and used a setup similar to that used by Frank Lloyd and it worked a lot better for me at least out in the audience. I also really loved his program. He opened with the Nehlybel Scherzo Concertante which is a great opener, which he followed with a little “encore” of a movement by Arthur Frackenpohl called the MP Rag from his Three Diversions for horn and piano. This the crowd also really got into, it is a cute piece for sure. Then we turned a corner to the extent that a new paragraph is in order.

Thunor’s Gate. Just reading the title you know it must be something big and interesting and it was. This was the second world premier of the day for me and it was again a work supported by the Rimon Fund. This one is for horn and live electronics and I thought was quite interesting and substantial. Thunor is the god of sea and storm; the work itself is meditative in character and is based on a technical level on manipulations of the horn sounds produced by the soloist.

Then we turned a corner again with Nelsen and he performed three works in collaboration with his wife, mezzo soprano Nina Yoshida Nelsen. This was another big score for me as an audience member as my wife is a mezzo as well. Call me biased but I just love the combination of horn and mezzo. They started out with and adaptation of the Brahms songs op. 91 for mezzo-soprano, viola and piano. Just beautiful, you can’t beat Brahms, and she has a great voice. But there is more! Next we had another world premiere, also supported by the Rimon Fund of a set of five songs for mezzo-soprano, horn, and piano by Ryan O’Connell Remembering the Future which I really liked too, it has a bit of a Broadway flavor and would please any audience. If that was not enough, the final work was the world premiere of a new arrangement of Time to Say Goodbye (the one Sarah Brightman sings) for TWO horns and mezzo-soprano and piano. For this they invited back to the stage Matsuzaki and it was a great finale to a really strong concert. Bravo to all!

And yet another concert

The evening recital was shared by Nicole Cash, William VerMeulen, and the Virtuoso Horn Duo. It was great. Then I went back to the hotel and relaxed briefly at the end of a long day.

OK, so after all the text above about the afternoon you are thinking “hey, Ericson, how about some details? You were going to leave us hanging like that?”

I was particularly interested to hear Nicole Cash as she is a player that is fairly new on the scene. If there were a “rookie of the year” award for International Horn Symposiums she set the bar really high with really beautiful tone and it all just sounds so easy and relaxed for her, I could listen to her play horn all day. Cash is Associate Principal horn of the San Francisco Symphony and everything she played was just great, including the Reynolds Partita, the Bitsch Variations, and especially the Willy Burkhard Romanze which was a work I was not familiar with and is one to look into more.

Next on the program listing (but they took turns playing, he actually played first) was William VerMeulen. As expected he also played great on a variety of works. The most significant perhaps was his last work which was the final world premier of the day (also Rimon Fund supported), Phoenix for horn and piano by Anthony DiLorenzo. It is a substantial three movement work with a Hollywood flavor to it and was only completed seven days ago (!), so to perform it to such a high level speaks to the skill of not only VerMeulen but also to the second pianist to mention for the day, Mitchell Leigh. Bravo to both and bravo again to VerMeulen for his efforts to commission this work!

Last on the program was the Virtuoso Horn Duo of Kerry Turner and Kristina Mascher. They also played a quite varied program very well. I did not mention that for this concert the setup was yet different again and I think the panels on each side of the piano did help with the sound in the audience being more consistent. As to the works they played I especially enjoyed Twas a Dark and Stormy Night for two horns and piano by Kerry Turner with its Gothic flare and also their encore, When I Fall in Love by Victor Young. Very tight, very enjoyable, what you would expect from a virtuoso duo.

This concert was a great one with tons of variety and came out at just under two and a half hours so nobody got overtime pay.

The schedule for Thursday is a lot different and will be a good bit more relaxing; check back tomorrow for more.

Continue to Part V