Brief Reviews: Improv Games, Scarlatti Etudes, and Jazzy Etudes


Back in 2009 I noted that Jeffrey Agrell, the tireless horn professor at the University of Iowa, had out a new publication, Improv Games for One Player. This year at the Midsouth Workshop I received a copy of this publication for review and would offer these additional notes.

The subtitle of the publication is “A Very Concise Collection of Musical Games for One Classical Musician.” I like this publication very much. The title could at first actually lead readers astray, it sounds like it might have something to do with jazz improv. It does have something to do with improv in a general sense but actually it is more correctly chock full of interesting ideas of different ways to practice, many of which can also be easily applied to teaching situations. I hate to give too much away as interested readers should purchase a copy, but for example the “Accent Game” has several valuable twists on how to practice scales that could certainly help improve accuracy and technique in general. In the introduction Agrell notes

Why improvise? To have fun, to further technique and musicianship, and to acquire fluency and flexibility (to be ready for anything that comes along). It’s all well and good to play standard etudes and technical exercises, but to really achieve comprehensive musicianship, you need to improvise.

This book is definitely worth looking into and is very well printed and coil bound by the publisher, GIA.

At the Southeast Workshop I was given a copy of a new publication by Michael Brubaker, Twelve Etudes for Horn arranged from the music of Domenico Scarlatti. When I met him at the workshop I realized that I was already following his blog, Tempo Senza Tempo. In it he features highlights of his collection of antique photographs related to horn and music, and his contact information may be found there. These etudes are certainly not Kopprasch! They are arranged from works for harpsichord and he includes the Longo and Kirtpatrick numbers for every etude. This element is excellent as I found it very easy to find keyboard recordings of these works (YouTube, etc) which will serve as a model for the hornist to learn these etudes with the correct character and style. An example would be the first of the etudes, for which this seems to be a top version on YouTube. As to his specific realization of these works Brubaker notes

These etudes are intended as an introduction to Scarlatti and baroque musical form. The Sonatas were originally written for the harpsichord, an instrument of limited dynamics, so ornaments and phrasings had a practical purpose very different than phrasing for the piano, or any wind instrument like the horn. Therefore the edited phrasings here should be understood as only one interpretation out of many other possible choices.

For the moderately advanced to advanced horn player, these challenging etudes in a Baroque style are pamphlet bound with a simple cover of a light coated paper stock.

Our final brief review for today is another collection of twelve etudes, sent to me by Portuguese hornist Ricardo Matosinhos. Titled 12 Jazzy Etudes for Horn, this is available in a very nicely printed edition by Phoenix Music Publications. Of these the author states in his website that

Usually advanced studies for French Horn tend to be too difficult. This is the first of 3 etude books for Horn on modes scales not very usual in horn studies, as well as some extended techniques and special effects. All this in easy to play studies where difficulties are not mixed, (if the study is difficult or even very difficult in some aspects, it will be simple on others) and above and of all its always present a great rhythmic component and a lot of fun.

There are recordings of two of the etudes posted in his site, this being number 10, which gives a good idea of the general level of the writing. I would rate these as being pretty challenging, certainly more difficult than the Scarlatti etudes above in that there are a number of extended techniques and special notations, not to mention the more complex rhythms to read and master. Dedicated to Arkady Shilkloper, these are jazzy, but actually I perceive more as just difficult etudes rather than studies specifically geared to learning or performing jazz. This is to say that the jazzy elements are a hook, but even if you are not working to learn a jazz style there is a lot to gain from working out an advanced etude publication such as this. The notes at the beginning of the book and the glossary of extended techniques also certainly increase the chances of learning these difficult etudes as intended by the author.

I have several more items lined up to review that have piled up this year, be looking for more next week as new music and recordings are always good motivators–especially so heading into the summer.

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