An epic 19th century horn and low brass recital


This coming week/weekend I will be performing an epic recital on 19th century instruments with Douglas Yeo, my wonderful trombone colleague these few past years at Arizona State. Built on the theme “Stuck in the 19th Century,” his portion of the recital will include works performed on Ophicleide, serpent, six valve trombone, and a German style bass trombone! I will also play on a variety of horns.

IMG_0852All of them are seen in this photo. Clockwise from top right: tenor horn (Yamaha), natural horn (McCracken), 19th century F horn (by Richard Seraphinoff), and Single Bb (Alexander), using appropriate mouthpieces by Moosewood and Osmun.

I will open the concert with the Larghetto by Emmanuel Chabrier. Composed in 1875, this beautiful work lays wonderfully on the natural horn in F that it was written for. While the valve was invented by 1814, valved horns were not widely used until around 1850, and use of the natural horn persisted in some areas until toward the end of the century, as works such as this attest.

muller-snipYeo is up next, and after that my next two works are by Bernard Müller, who is best remembered today as a horn etude composer. He was second horn in the Gewandhaus Orchestra from 1876-1920 (more on Müller here) but clearly had some higher compositional aspirations, as demonstrated in his brooding Nocturno, Op. 73 which dates to 1910 and Melancholie, Op. 68, which dates to 1906. Both lie very well on the single F horn they were written for, and both are featured in my recent recording project that I hope will be completed in March sometime. The low range of the single F horn has much of the sound of the modern horn, but the upper range has a tone more related to that of the natural horn than the modern horn.

Following another work performed Yeo I have another treat for the audience, the beautiful Andante, Op. posth. by Richard Strauss. Written in 1888 and dedicated to his father, the great hornist Franz Strauss in celebration of his silver wedding anniversary, the work contains musical echoes of other works of Strauss from that same time frame such as Don Juan. Franz Strauss was an early adopter of the single Bb horn which, with its light sound relative to that of the modern double horn, is wonderful on this work. I recorded it on a bigger horn in my Les Adieux CD — that version is on YouTube here. The single Bb horn was seen in use by the 1860s, and by the later 19th century was commonly used by high horn players, while low horn players used the single F.

My final solo on the recital is an arrangement of the 1880 popular song Funiculí Funiculá by Luigi Denza, arranged by Ryan Nowlin. I actually recorded this for an educational project on tenor horn and liked it enough to play it again in recital. The tenor horn has a completely different sound than the French horn, and is a part of the tapestry of middle brass playing in the 19th century. Tenor horn was more of an instrument for the masses, being simpler to play, and was used mostly by amateurs and military musicians in bands to cover the same range as the French horn.

The recital will have even more surprises, including a duet with Yeo. There are two performances actually, first on Wednesday morning at the MIM and again on Saturday afternoon at ASU. The latter will also have a live webcast, check back for the link!

The pianist is Aimee Fincher, who I have also enjoyed working with on other projects with Yeo. The recital will be bittersweet for me — it will certainly be epic and memorable, exactly the type of program I have hoped to perform with a colleague at ASU, but Yeo is retiring this semester. This is not a recital to miss if you are in the area and again will be webcast live.

UPDATE: The URL for the recital is

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