Horns on the Recital 2011: an Alto Range Adventure!

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My 2011 recital at the Musical Instrument Museum is coming soon — Wednesday, Sept. 28, at 10:30 and 1:00 to be exact. On a program I have titled “French Horn, Tuben, and Alto Range Brass” I will be performing a variety of instruments.

To open it will be French horn, my new one (and it feels and sounds great – more here), on two works, the second of which I have very much enjoyed learning:

  • Chanson des Chasseurs … Franz Schubert, arr. J. F. Gallay
  • Romanze … Willy Burkhard

The next two works explore the Wagner tuba, the first of the below being played on tenor and the second on bass. Wagner tubas are made in B-flat and in F and are normally not seen as solo instruments, being instead used normally in quartets in works of Wagner, Bruckner, Strauss and others. (More information may be found here). The tenor has a beautiful, even haunting sound on the Levy and the husky deep tone of the bass is striking as well.

  • Suite … Frank Levy
  • Serenade … Franz Schubert

Next we move to an instrument that is even more of a rarity, the althorn. It looks like a miniature Wagner tuba but is pitched in the case of the one I am using in F alto. The sound is completely unique and really quite good, one that must be heard in person. An earlier Horn Matters article looked more at the althorn I am using for these two works; this will be my first public performance on it. While I could have tried to do a portion of the Hindemith Althorn sonata, instead I opted for two slightly generic works that sound great on the instrument for the MIM audience.

  • Chant Corse … Henri Tomasi
  • The Minstrel Boy … Irish folk song, arr. Paul Basler

Next we move to another instrument that is new to me in terms of public performance, a classic or traditional mellophone. While I have had a similar mellophone for years, this particular instrument is also new to me, and needs a more extended description. The first thing to note is this instrument is a rather deluxe model of mellophone, with crooks for F, E-flat, D, and C! It was manufactured in Toronto, Canada by Whaley Royce & Co.

Besides the crooks what really makes this instrument unique is the mouthpiece setup. The three mouthpieces in the photo were with the instrument. One is sort of a generic, cornet shank mellophone mouthpiece and it barely fits the instrument. The other two are the original mouthpieces to this instrument and have a shank size that is just a bit larger than a horn mouthpiece but not much! This is very unusual in mellophones but as a result I can actually use a horn mouthpiece without an adapter, just with a bit of paper wrapped around the shank. Set up this way the instrument plays pretty well and has a unique sound perfect for a museum concert.

As to what to play on a traditional mellophone, that was a good question. Looking in my music I was drawn to the cover of the Radio Collection of Modern Gems for Eb Horn, Alto, or Mellophone and Piano. Published in 1939 with a cover price of fifty cents. There were several tunes that fit the mellophone well, and I chose a Spiritual. For the second work, as a peak period of popularity for this type of instrument was in the 1920s a rag seemed like a good bet, and it is a cute number on mellophone to be sure.

  • Deep River … Spiritual, arr. Carleton L. Colby
  • A Breeze from Alabama … Scott Joplin, arr. Joël Jody

For a closer I turned to the Mellophonium and a jazz standard. I have written about this instrument before as well; it was developed for marching band but was also used for several years by the great Stan Kenton in his jazz band. This number was a signature tune of the group.

  • Misty … Erroll Garner

So that is the program. Admission is free and there is a lot of variety in terms of visuals and sounds. It will be a bit of a wild ride but I am looking forward to it, and if you are in the area ever be sure to visit the MIM, it is an amazing and huge new museum well worth seeing.

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