If I were to sum up this CD in a one-liner, I would have to say “This CD proves that what may have sounded weird sixty years ago now sounds normal and often beautiful.”
I often fondly think back to the bus stop where I used to wait in Berkeley California. I often took the bus to youth orchestra rehearsals in the 1970’s. This is where I met natural horn players Lowell Greer and R. J. Kelly. Berkeley Music House was just next to this bus stop, and being an enthusiastic young French horn player, I would often run into the music store to see what was in the back bin. From this bin of the less expensive sheet music I learned of many lesser-known 20th century composers, and started my collection of obscure sheet music.
The Wendell Otey quartet (track one) is one of these pieces that I purchased from the Berkley Music House, and in being that I only have the score, and not parts, I had never had a chance to hear this music until I did this multi-track recording.
The Alan Hovhaness piece (Track two & three) was hard to get, as it was published by its dedicatee Morris Secon, who died in 2009. Mr. Hovhaness wrote this horn quartet on May 8, 1954. I know of only one other major horn work written in one day, the Beethoven’s Horn Sonata.
Henry Cowell is one of my heros; a composer who wrote in many styles and had a major influence on music of the 20th century. I am thankful that he wrote this horn trio, and the other Hymn and Fuging Tune for unspecified instruments. Cowells Hymn and Fuging Tunes are based on a 19th century Southern Baptist spiritual music form, and they are considered to be an important part of Henry Cowell’s compositional output. I don’t know of other recordings of these two trios (tracks four through seven).
Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s Guitar works seem to have become part of the standard repertoire but other than those guitar works, he is eclipsed by his very famous students: Henri Mancini, Nelson Riddle, Andre Previn, Jerry Goldsmith and John Williams. Tedesco was a very prolific composer having written 220 opuses and numerous unnumbered works including hundreds of film scores. The Los Angeles Horn Club commissioned this work (track 8) and it was published in 1956, but to my knowledge never recorded.
Two of the duets by Clifton Williams (tracks nine through thirty-two) are published in a popular horn etude book, but the complete set, again was quite hard to find. These are very pleasant works and they are the earliest recordings I did for this CD. Late winter of 2012, I purchased and old Schmidt horn, which I love, and these duets we my first project with that instrument. This whole CD is recorded using that Schmidt, and I feel that it has a beautiful classic warm sound.
I rounded out this recording with the music of Gunther Schuller. His works are in an expressionistic style. This music from 1956 explores a few different techniques on the horn that expands its range of expression: Muted, stopping the bell with the hand to make a harsh sound, flutter tonguing and pitch bending with the hand in the bell. His works in a way are more like sculptures than anything else on the CD, but again I have to say, they really don’t sound weird, just expressive.