On Effective Performances

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For this article we dig way back into the archive of the original Horn Notes Blog to an article dated 11/9/05, posted under the title “More on effective performances.” It includes many points worth pondering.

Today in studio class we had the final performances associated with our Gumpert project [more here]. The entire studio prepared short melodic works from the arrangements for horn and piano by the famous Leipzig horn teacher of the late nineteenth century Friedrich Gumpert [More on Gumpert here]. As a part of the experience of hearing 18 of these performances in a row, students filled out an exit questionnaire. Elements noted that were evident in the most effective performances included:

  • Accuracy
  • Air support
  • Calmness and control
  • Clean articulations
  • Clean connected slurs
  • Confidence
  • Consistent tempo/pulse
  • Convincing tempos
  • Dumping water before the performance
  • Dynamic contrasts/expressive
  • Even crescendos and diminuendos
  • Introducing the work well
  • Making the music interesting
  • Obvious phrasing/character
  • Rich, velvety tone
  • Steady crescendos
  • Steady pitch
  • True pp

Most of the performances today were at least fairly effective, but elements noted by studio members about performances that were not as effective included:

  • Boring/no dynamics/no phrases
  • “Bubbles” on articulations
  • “Frustrated face” at end/attitude after piece/saying “that’s it!”
  • Gurgling water
  • Intonation problems/playing sharp
  • Introducing the work badly
  • Letting intonation fall on the last note
  • Nervous, tight breathing
  • Not giving the last note of the phrase full value
  • Poor air support
  • Shaky/fuzzy/muffled tone
  • Stops/re-starts
  • Talking during your own performance
  • Toe tapping out of rhythm
  • Too much vibrato
  • Rhythm and sense of time
  • Wa waaas

In short this was an interesting project, one that I would like to repeat in a few years, and one that will hopefully raise the musicality of performances in the horn studio.