This album is a collection of my favorite music for horn and piano. It is a tribute to my favorite horn players. This album is dedicated to my Father, Kirby Cooper, who shared his love of music with me. June 9, 1944-March 27, 2002. This album was released on March 27, 2012.
Sonata for horn and piano op. 24 by Trygve Madsen displays the power, excitement, and many different tone colors capabilities of the horn and piano. This sonata was composed to commemorate the 150th anniversary of year Franz Schubert’s death and was premiered by the Norwegian horn legend, Froydis Ree Wekre and pianist Bjørn Strandvold in Stockholm in October, 1978. The last movement involves variations on a theme of a Schubert Sonatine, although originally in a different key. Variation 2 includes dazzling pyrotechnics in the piano part, where Cary Chow, in this recording, shows his remarkable technical prowess. Madsen has also written Dream of the Rhinoceros for unaccompanied horn, a trio for horn, violin and piano, and a concerto for horn and orchestra.
Berceuse by Jean Michel Damase stays within the French impressionistic traditions of Debussy, Ravel, and Poulenc. Damase was born in Bordeaux, France in 1928 and is known as a pianist, composer, and Prix de Rome winner of composition in 1947 for his Et La Belle Se Reveille. Damase currently is on the faculty of École Normal de Musique de Paris and gives masterclasses in France, USA, and Japan. Berceuse was written for horn in 1951 and features a soothing minimalistic melody. I like to think of it as a jazzy lullaby. He has written many other works for the horn, including a trio for horn and oboe, a horn concerto, and a horn sonata, as well as Pavane Varieé for horn and piano.
Adagio and Allegro by Robert Schumann is arguably one of the greatest pieces of music for horn and piano and one of the few horn pieces that string players perform. Schumann wrote this piece in 1849 for the newly invented valve horn that could play chromatic pitches more easily than the traditional horn without valves. Adagio and Allegro was written as Haus Musik or music intended to be played in the more intimate settings of a Parlor or Salon concert. The Adagio is very romantic, expressive, and slow, while the Allegro is fast and exciting. Schumann wrote Adagio and Allegro and the Konzertstuck for 4 horns back to back, composing two of the most important pieces in the horn repertoire within a week.
Andante by Richard Strauss R. Strauss was the son of the famous horn player Franz Strauss. Franz was Richard Wagner’s solo horn player and premiered many of Wagner’s operas including the Ring Cycle. Richard adopted his father’s romantic style of composition for the horn featuring long lyrical melodies with an emphasis on tone. Andante was written as a present for his father and mother on for their 25th wedding anniversary and was published posthumously.
Alto Horn Sonata in E flat by Paul Hindemith was written in 1943. German born composer, conductor, and violinist Paul Hindemith wrote at least one Sonata for every instrument. He could play many his Sonatas on the instruments for which they were written. Hindemith fled from Germany to Switzerland in 1938 and to the U.S. in 1940. Amongst all of the Chaos and turmoil of the Second World War, Hindemith was able to find beauty and serenity in harmony music, which is also the impression I am left with from this Sonata. Even through all of the tension created with dissonance, there is a resolving beauty that surfaces throughout the entire piece.
Prelude Theme and Variation by Gioacchino Rossini is a dazzling virtuoso showpiece much like the Variations on the Carnival of Venice for trumpet by J.B. Arban. This piece is entirely over the top with expression, humor, and virtuosity much like an opera aria for horn. This was originally written for the horn without valves, much like a bugle, and pitches could be changes by covering the bell with the hand. This piece pushes the limit of technique for the horn with valves, so one can imagine the skill needed to perform on the horn without valves.
Rossini stopped composing at the height of his career to pursue such interests as gourmet cooking. Only at the end of Rossini’s life did he begin to compose again, calling them the sins of his old age or Peches de Vieillesse which were whimsical little pieces of chamber music. Prelude, Theme, and Variations is the most famous of these works.
Villanelle by Paul Dukas composed in 1906, the Villanelle was written as an exam for the Paris Conservatoire. A traditional Villanelle is a French folk song sung by the Troubadours that is very free in meter much like the opening theme that recurs throughout the piece. Dukas, a French impressionistic, composer was most known for the Sorcerer’s Apprentice made famous in the Disney classic, Fantasia. Dukas did not see many of his composition adequate and destroyed much of his work. The opening theme of Villanelle was to be played on the natural horn, and the player was instructed to change to the valve horn at the Tres vif(very fast) tempo. This is the only piece designed to demonstrate a player’s ability to play both with valves and with hand horn. The natural horn was still being used into the first part of the 20th century when this piece was written, although many players today perform this piece entirely with the valved horn.
En Foret by Eugene Bozza was composed in 1941 as a proficiency exam for the Paris Conservatoire where Bozza studied violin, composition and conducting years earlier. Bozza won the Prix de Rome in 1934 for composition for his cantata, La légende de Roukmāni. Bozza contributed many pieces to the solo and chamber repertoire of every instrument. En Foret, French for “in the forest,” includes the hunting horn call of Saint Hubert, the patron saint of hunting. Every summer a group of hunting horn enthusiasts in the French village, Roche Fort, plays Saint Hubert’s call, as has been the tradition for many years. En Foret also includes the plainsong melody from the Victimae Paschali Laudes of the Roman Catholic Easter Mass, hinting that the hunt took place on Easter day. En Foret features the full register of the horn in combination with trills, glissandi, double and triple tongued articulations, muting, and hand stopping all while demanding rapid fire valve coordination and remaining thematic, beautiful, and exciting. This is a crowd pleaser and is easily my favorite piece to play because it ends any program with a bang!