Thanks so much to everyone who participated and enjoyed French Horn Week last week! I’ve received a lot of great feedback and I appreciate everyone who liked or shared or commented on what I put together for you.
I’d especially like to thank Erin, Adam, Julia and Gene, Columbus Symphony Orchestra’s fabulous horn section! (Applause – Applause!)
Sure I’ve seen and heard them all perform, but prior to starting this adventure, I’d only ever met Adam and even then, only a couple of months earlier for a short while at a festival.
Yet, though we were strangers, all four of them were kind enough to welcome me into their homes, meet with me over skype when distance got in the way, introduce me to their families, donate a couple of hours (at least!) of their time to help me put all this together. They answered my myriad questions, (trust me – I had a lot!) helped clarify details and listened to follow up questions from a former clarinet player who hadn’t even played her instrument since the 90s yet who still attempted to sound semi-intelligent while talking to them!
They did all that – outside their hours of practicing, caring for their families, and spending times with friends just so I could attempt to introduce them to you.
I think that’s pretty cool!
I’m eternally grateful for their generosity. I hope they like what I did and I sure hope I did them justice because, like the other CSO musicians, these players are really good. They’re not just pretty faces with a subtle hint of talent, who happened upon a really good marketing rep like a lot of “singers” you hear on most radio stations these days. No.
They are legitimately good and serious musicians and their playing is their marketing. They have dedicated their lives to playing great music in order to grant the rest of us a pleasant escape for a couple hours on the weekend.
I think that’s pretty worthy of our appreciation, don’t you?
Thanks again, horn players! I hate it that I’m going to be out of state for the Mahler 2nd this Friday, so I hope you guys let me know how it goes. I’ll see you the next weekend for the Rachmaninoff!
And to all my readers – this is only the beginning. I’m already working on Bassoon Week (seriously – sharks have nothing on this!) and look forward to talking with our new concertmaster and hopefully some more brass players because there’s just got to be a brass quartet or quintet playing somewhere around the holidays in this town, right?
If you’re a musician and would like to be next up for “(Insert instrument name here) Week”, please shoot me an Email. I can be reached at giocosity (at) gmail (dot) com! THANK YOU!
P.S. I wrote a letter to the editor of the Columbus Dispatch last Monday about the treasure that is our symphony and it ran on Friday! Check it out!
Welcome to our last day of French Horn week here at Giocosity. I hope you’ve enjoyed meeting all the horn players of the Columbus Symphony Orchestra. Don’t worry, I have a few more horn players for you to meet, including Arty Robinson, an up and coming horn player currently at The Ohio State University School of Music, but let’s talk some music first.
French horns have quite a personality as well as a gorgeous sound. When they first started becoming popular, composers, such as Robert Schumann, were fascinated with them.
It was Schumann who said that “the sound of the horn is the soul of the orchestra.” From the La Jolla Music Society website, I learned this about him:
In the winter of 1849 Schumann became interested in the French horn. The recent invention of the valved horn gave the once-awkward natural horn much greater range, flexibility, and expressive power, and–working at white heat–Schumann set out to exploit the possibilities he recognized in the new instrument. He composed the Adagio and Allegro for horn and piano in four days (February 14-17, 1849) and then over the next three days sketched out the Concert Piece for Four Horns and Orchestra.
Two horn pieces in a week’s time. That’s pretty impressive, don’t you think? Take a look at these two quotes.
Composers generally call on them when bravura is needed, but they also can supply a soulful, melancholy sonority as well.
- Maestro Peter Stafford Wilson
I myself have always had a weakness for the sound of eight French horns playing in unison. Their rich, golden, legendary sonority transports me.
- Aaron Copland
FAMOUS (OR NOT SO FAMOUS?) HORN PLAYERS
Helen Kotas was the first woman to be principal horn player for a major American orchestra
Sarah Willis is the first woman to play a brass instrument for the Berlin Philharmonic
I would rather quit several years too soon than 10 minutes too late.
This is my favorite!
Who is this Beethoven? His name is not known to us. Of course, Punto is very well known.
- A 19th century local music critic about horn player, Giovanni Punto, upon playing the Sonata for Horn and Piano Op. 17 by Beethoven in Pest, Hungary.
YOU’LL WANT TO LISTEN TO THESE!
These are a few of the suggestions of pieces that were recommended this week as great examples of French horn music that we should all have in our music libraries. What I have here is just a small sampling, too! My personal favorite is the third one: the Mozart horn concerto.
I love everything by Mozart, so start with that, but be sure to listen to the Schumann. After that, try the Strauss. From there, venture out to some Wagner and then follow Gene’s advice and listen to “all the 5ths:” the 5th Symphonies by Mahler, Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich. (Throw in Beethoven’s 5th while you’re at it. It’s just good in its own right!)
After listening to all of those, figure out which ones you liked best and then try something else by that same composer and keep working your way out from there. Have fun with it! There’s a lot of great music to be heard! And if you think you’re ready to venture out again, away from YouTube, then why not try an actual concert? Mahler’s 2nd and a Mozart’s Horn Concerto #3 are both coming up!
COLUMBUS SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA IN 3-5 YEARS
When talking to Erin, Adam, Julia and Gene, I asked them all where they saw the CSO in the next 3-5 years. They’ve already traveled a long (long) road within the last 5 years. They all spoke of having improved artistically under the leadership of Maestro Jean-Marie Zeitouni, but want to continue that trend with the next music director.
They all long for a longer schedule! (Obviously – they enjoy being working musicians!) Julia hopes for a new music director who can continue pushing them to make the best music possible. Erin hopes for someone who can help grow the orchestra. Gene hopes for a return to a 35 week schedule, but knows that it comes down to fundraising. Adam hopes for a good balance of old and new, for innovation without alienating any existing segments of the audience.
Adam went on to say that in doing that, they could “catapult themselves into the next generation”.
THE NEXT GENERATION
This is the current generation of horn players within the CSO. Some are new. Some have been around for a while. So what about the next generation? What about some up and coming horn players?
While learning about the French horn, Maestro Wilson told me that,
There are regularly four members to the section (adding a fifth with the traditional assistant to the principal), so it is the largest wind section in terms of numbers.
Shown above, Ohio State senior, Arty Robinson auditioned for and made the substitute list with the Columbus Symphony Orchestra last fall where he’s been called to play at rehearsals and family concerts. In March, he had the good fortune of being called to join the horn section for their performance of Igor Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring.
Click here to hear the CSO’s performance of the Rite of Spring. If you listen carefully, you can also hear the tapping of the dancers’ feet on stage!
Like the rest of the section he, too, thinks of Stravinsky as a genius and even wrote a paper on him while still in high school! (Hmm – wonder if I can get a copy of that!)
Arty told me that he’s been a part of the CSO’s Youth Orchestra programs and has studied with former 2nd Horn, David Urschel, since he was in middle school. He’s currently studying under professor Bruce Henniss at the Ohio State University School of Music and plays a Lewis & Duerk LDx5 French horn. Last summer he attended the Aspen Music Festival and School as a scholarship student of David Wakefield, Horn and Chamber Music professor from Julliard.
Arty’s dream job would be as a horn player in the Chicago or San Francisco Symphony. I truly hope he makes it to one of those!
Perhaps the generation after him will someday consider a job in the Columbus Symphony Orchestra as their dream job!!
Well that’s it for French horn week! I hope that somewhere along the line someone out there is listening right now to one of the videos above. or is backtracking to Adam’s post to listen to his take on the theme to the new Star Trek movies, or kicking back and checking out the schedule of their local symphony. Heck – maybe someone will even think about suggesting that their child take up the French horn. Music is a wonderful thing and whether we listen to it or create it ourselves, it should always have a place in our lives. I hope you agree!
Thank you very much for taking the time to read all I’ve written this week. I really appreciate it! Now – what instrument should I write about next?!
Many thanks to Arty for the use of his (group) picture on this post!
Of the Columbus Symphony Orchestra’s French horn section:
These folks are phenomenal. They always deliver with precision and passion. And to think that the section has changed so much over the years in terms of personnel, it is all the more a tribute to consistent leadership of Gene and the luck we have had at acquiring the right talent at the right time.
- Maestro Peter Stafford Wilson
Welcome to Day 4 of French Horn week! Today we have the pleasure of meeting Principal horn player, Gene Standley, probably one of the nicest people you could ever meet!
Hometown: Pittsburgh, PA
Alma Mater: Curtis Institute of Music – studied with all the principals of the Philadelphia orchestra
Home Life: Wife, Jocelyn – also a horn player, four children and lots of livestock! I live on a working farm.
Gene is also a cancer survivor of 3 years!
Any fun hobbies? Collecting classical music LPs – lots of classical music LPs! Also model trains and bargain hunting!
Why the French horn? Both parents played the French horn with the Pittsburgh Symphony (back in the 1950s). Mom was really helpful in getting me get started and then Dad, a well-known horn teacher, helped me from there.
Instrument: C.F. Schmidt (Carl Fischer – a repairman and dealer in Chicago) My particular horn was originally made in the 1930s, but bought by my dad in the 1980s and didn’t play well, so I had it fixed up. Dale Clevenger, principal horn in the Chicago Symphony, played a C.F. Schmidt, too!
How often do you practice? About 1 hour every day, but about 2 hours per day during the season.
Who are some of your favorite French horn players? Radek Baborák, Sarah Willis and Stefan Dohr.
With what other ensembles have you played? Once in a while I play with ProMusica Chamber Orchestra and I played with the Philadelphia Orchestra back in the 70s-80s, when Riccardo Muti was at the podium, also with the Pittsburgh Symphony with Lorin Maazel for the Wagner Ring excerpts.
What’s the best thing about performing in front of an audience? If you know the people understand and know the music, then you’re playing for a group of people who know what to expect. It’s definitely more rewarding if you pull it off and play it well. You can feel a lack of intensity from the state if the audience is bored.
For myself, I gain a reaffirmation of what I know I can do. Hopefully I’ll play it better than the time before. It’s always a learning experience.
Bud Herseth always talked about his lifelong quest to learn and grow.
What’s the best place to perform outside of Columbus? Denison University (Granville, OH)
Any memorable performances? Tchaikovsky’s 5th under Gunther Herbig. I first played at rehearsal and knew I was off. It was going to be my first concert after cancer. Maestro Herbig asked me how I was going to do it? “Figure it out!”, I told myself. I pulled it off and Maestro Herbig said, “What a wonderful recovery!”
COLUMBUS SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
Year joined the CSO: 1990, Principal as of 1991
What brought you to Columbus? Imra Szukfu, then-personnel manager with the CSO, finally called me before I’d already signed up for another year with the Philadelphia Orchestra. I auditioned and won a one-year appointment.
Ohio Theatre or Southern Theatre? Both – depends on the kind and size of piece being played.
What should people in Columbus know about the Columbus Symphony Orchestra?
They should know how important it is to support the local symphony.
People en masse have so much power – if everyone in Columbus donated $2-5, we’d be set.
What do you say to people who don’t think they like classical music? Get to know it! Try it!
Start with the basics – Peter and the Wolf, Beethoven’s 5th, etc.
Who are your favorite composers? Mahler, Brahms, Bruckner, Beethoven, Ravel, Debussy, Prokofiev
What’s your favorite musical era: Romantic
What are your favorite pieces for the French horn? Mahler 5th, Tchaikovsky 5th, Shostakovich 5th, Wagner operas (Wagner knew how to write for the horn!)
What French horn music should I have in my music library? All the 5ths! (5th Symphonies – Mahler 5th, Tchaikovsky 5th, Shostakovich 5th, etc!)
Here’s a quick bit of music that Gene was nice enough to play for me – with no warm up but a quick run through of the Star Trek theme right before! (I couldn’t get him to play THAT for me on video, but I think this is quite good, don’t you?!)
OK – GOTTA ASK!
Any rival sections? The loge.
Any good quotes about French horns? Yes –don’t mess with a French horn player. Dale Clevenger was tough – you just didn’t mess with him!
What exactly IS hand stopping? It’s when we actually ‘jam’ our hand firmly inside the bell to seal off the sound. This creates a high pitched ‘sizzle’ sound that is used in works by French composers as well as Mahler and others.
Igor Stravinsky – Rite of spring: Genius? Or just plain weird? Both – he definitely liked to be different! It’s easy for musicians to overdo it though.
Hey – a little support on Stravinsky’s weirdness! Of course, his music IS growing on me! And the math really is impressive! Something to think about, I suppose! Come back tomorrow for the soul of the Orchestra!
Erin Lano, is the Columbus Symphony Orchestra’s newest horn player. She joins the CSO this year as a full-time musician after having subbed for two years.
Originally from Richmond, VA and a veteran marathon runner, she’s currently in the process of moving from Chicago to Columbus in the next week or so. She was kind enough to talk to me via Skype, hence the reason behind her having lent me some pictures – which are a tad more formal than those I took of her fellow horn players!
So please let me take this opportunity to introduce you to her.
Everyone: Meet Erin!
Hometown: Richmond, VA
Alma Mater: B.M. New England conservatory of Music (studied under James Sommerville) and Master’s degree (M.M.) from Rice university.
Home Life: Husband Matt Lano, who plays the bassoon, and a pet snake named Chloe.
Any fun hobbies? I like to run and have run the Chicago marathon 6 times.
Why the French horn? My parents told me I had to be in band. Mom used to play the French horn. It sounded pretty and we had one sitting around the house, so I might as well have played that!
What kind of instrument do you play? Ricco Kühn
How often do you practice? About 2-4 hours per day
Who are some of your favorite French horn players? Radovan Vlatković – I love his sound, how smoothly he plays and how musical he is. James Sommerville, William VerMeulen (Rice University also 1st horn of Houston Symphony) The Chicago Symphony horn section! Sarah Willis, Low horn with the Berliner Philharmoniker – definitely a huge inspiration.
With what other ensembles have you played? I’m Principal Horn with the West Michigan Symphony, 3rd horn at the Britt Festival in Jacksonville, OR and I play with the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra. In Chicago, I sub with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Lyric Opera, Grant Park Orchestra and have also subbed with the Cincinnati and Milwaukee Symphonies.
What’s the best thing about performing in front of an audience? I want to play my best. Each time I perform a piece, I learn a little more about it. I hope to learn more about the other parts to see the big picture.
I hope the audience is moved in some way. I want the orchestra to get the emotional content of the music and for the audience to feel an emotional connection to the orchestra and to the music.
Being in an orchestra – being able to recreate these great masterpieces. It’s so rewarding!
Where are some great places to play outside of Columbus: Symphony Hall in Boston or Pritzker Pavillion in Millennium Park, Chicago
Any memorable performances? Playing principal on Mahler’s 9th with Esa-Pekka Salonen conducting the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, Orchestra Hall.
COLUMBUS SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
Year joined the CSO: 2013, Subbed for two years prior.
What brought you to Columbus? I’ve been Freelancing in Chicago for 6 years now. A couple of years ago, Adam (Koch) called me to play a gig in Cleveland, which was right before Columbus Symphony Orchestra Sub auditions. He told me I should take the audition, and I have been coming out a lot since then.
Ohio Theatre or Southern Theatre? Ohio Theatre
What should people in Columbus know about the Columbus Symphony Orchestra? We are really lucky to have such a great orchestra. Columbus does far more in terms of a meaty, classical repertoire during the year than some other orchestras of its size. Such a great variety and we have a huge hall, too, so there are plenty of seats!
What do you say to people who don’t think they like classical music? I’d offer up some suggestions or suggest they hear a live performance just to get a full sampling of it. If you find a piece or a composer who really resonates with you, then work your way out from there. There’s such a huge variety to the classical repertoire, I think everyone could find something to love about it.
Who are your favorite composers? Mozart, Brahms
What’s your favorite musical Era: Romantic
Favorite show off piece for the French horn: Mozart Horn concertos, Former professor James Sommerville plays so expressively, so musically – he taught me how to play the Mozart concertos. “No – you CAN’T do it that way. Do it THIS way…”
What French horn music should I have in my music library? Till Eulenspiegel, Don Juan by Strauss
OK – GOTTA ASK!
Igor Stravinsky – Rite of spring: Genius? Or just plain weird? Genius!
I don’t know, but I might end up being outnumbered on that last question!
Special thanks to Erin for the use of her pictures for this post.
Come back tomorrow to meet Adam Koch!
Over the last week or so, I’ve been meeting with the four horn players of the Columbus Symphony Orchestra. They have all been so kind to let me into their homes and discuss their (our) symphony, their backgrounds, their love of music, you name it. I’m so very grateful for that because in getting to know them, I’ve discovered that not only are they talented musicians, but they’re all very nice people I’m so glad to have met.
They’ve also all been good enough to show a lot of patience with my geekiness. Do you know how much the French horn is featured in Star Trek movie theme music? Quite a lot, actually and our horn players were such good sports that two of them even played some for me.
Of course, I only got one of them on video and you’ll have to wait for that until French Horn Week (September 23-27), but check these out in the meantime.
This is from Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. Listen to the horns about 1:30 in.
From Star Trek: First Contact, they kick in with the main melody around 40-45 seconds in.
From the surprise attack in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, arguably the best of all the Star Trek movies. The horns really add to the drama on this. They kick in pretty early on and are heard throughout. If you want to watch the actual scene, click here. Ricardo Montalban was excellent in this role! Update: Had to make some changes since the original link I had was disabled, so you get the whole scene anyway. Check out those 1982 special effects! French horns start about 30-40 seconds in but get more fun just before the 2-minute mark. Enjoy!
And from the most recent movie, and possibly my favorite, Star Trek: Into Darkness.
Star Trek and French horns – such a great combination! Am I a bit of a geek for putting these together? Perhaps, but it’s all good. So what do you think?