This recording was conceived many years ago as a collection of songs and lullabies to play for our children when they were little ones. By now the children have grown quite a bit, as has the scope of the project, but the theme remains the same - a compilation of some of my favorite lyrical music for horn and piano. The music is of varied origins, mostly vocal, some instrumental, but all written in a singing style. The pieces fall into three categories: first, music originally composed for horn and piano; second, transcriptions already in existence; and third, new transcriptions I made specifically for this recording. With lyricism as the common thread, I selected repertoire that I felt was as varied as possible, representing different nationalities, musical eras and styles. I think each piece has its own story to tell. I hope you enjoy it!
Review from "American Record Guide":
"Tod Bowermaster is third horn of the St. Louis Symphony; James Howsmon is professor of instrumental accompanying at Oberlin Conservatory. Here they present about 15 songs, some familiar melodies, and several lyrical horn pieces.
Since great songs have great melodies, brass players like to play them. Unless a song is played with maximum feeling, though, it can leave a listener flat. That is certainly not the case here. Bowermaster plays with all the feeling the songs need, and his beautiful tone - concentrated, consistent in all registers, often warmed with subtle vibrato - is wonderful. Howsmon is the consummate collaborator.
Among the well-known songs are Schubert's 'An die Musik' and 'Standchen', Schumann's 'Widmung', two of Brahms's Serious Songs, Purcell's 'I Attempt from Love's Sickness to Fly', and Strauss's 'Allerseelen'. Familiar melodies include a Bach Siciliano, Saint-Saens's 'Swan', and the Andante from Mendelssohn's Symphony 5. And from the solo horn literature are Gliere's Nocturne, Intermezzo, and Romance; and the Romance by Saint-Saens.
A long program, but all quite beautiful. "
Review from "The Horn Call":
" Tod Bowermaster, third horn in the St. Louis Symphony, has put together a beautiful CD of lyrical tunes for horn and piano. This recording is a sheer listening pleasure. Bowermaster plays with elegant and graceful lyricism and a gorgeous, golden tone. In the liner notes, Bowermaster describes his children as inspiration, and his influences include the great singers Dame Janet Baker and Arlene Auger.
The original works for horn and piano include three Gliere pieces, wherein one can really enjoy Bowermaster's mastery of the instrument and breadth of sound and dynamic range. Many of the arrangements will be familiar to hornists: selections arranged by Froydis Ree Wekre, Milan Yancich, and Kazimierz Machala. Additionally, Tod Bowermaster has transcribed and arranged seven of the songs. One hopes he plans to publish them.
This unique and lovely CD would be a great addition to any song lover's collection."
From the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
Symphony French Hornist finds beauty in art songs
BY SARAH BRYAN MILLER • Post-Dispatch
"The Horn in Song." Tod Bowermaster, horn; James Howsmon, piano. (Available at the Powell Symphony Hall boutique...)
Another member of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra has produced a solo CD: SLSO third horn Tod Bowermaster's "The Horn in Song" is now available.
The contents are exactly what the title promises: 23 works — transcriptions of great art songs — performed on French horn. Bowermaster plays with a consistently beautiful, singing tone that conveys the deeper meanings of the songs as well as their music.
"What I've hoped is that it's something people will enjoy listening to, plain and simple," Bowermaster says.
Bowermaster, an accomplished soprano in his childhood, considered the project for a long time before finally taking it on.
"I grew up singing before I played the horn," he says. "I've always enjoyed the lyrical aspect of it. Years ago, my wife, Cynthia, was after me to record lullabies for our kids, but I never had time. Our kids aren't babies now — they're 10 and 12 — but I thought this was the time to finally do this."
Bowermaster was encouraged and assisted by two old friends. Paul Eachus, a former colleague in the Honolulu Symphony Orchestra, is the head recording engineer at Oberlin College; pianist James Howsmon, Bowermaster's roommate at Northwestern University, is the head of accompanying at Oberlin. What's more, Oberlin has a new state-of-the-art recording studio.
Howsmon introduced Bowermaster to song literature when they were at Northwestern.
"He was always studying scores, accompanying voice students," Bowermaster says of Howsmon.
As it happened, he was available.
Next came the process of choosing and transcribing songs so that they could be played on the horn.
One of Bowermaster's favorite CDs is soprano Arleen Auger's "Love Songs"; he realized that many of her choices might work.
"As it turns out, all eight of the transcriptions I did on the CD came from that," he says.
He enlisted pianist Nancy Mayo of Webster University to help him hunt down the music; they read through it together to find keys that would work.
"Fortunately, art songs are usually available in different registers, in high voice and low voice," Bowermaster says.
Some of them were easier than others, but "I fell in love with them, and we kept them all."
To prevent too much sameness, Bowermaster chose songs from a wide range of composers, eras and countries. Only one, a Spanish folksong setting by Fernando Obradors, wasn't available in a workable key.
"Fortunately," he says, "Jim is a great pianist, and he was able to transpose it."
Bowermaster says, "To have the opportunity to study the texts (instrumentalists) don't normally get that bonus that singers do. At its best, the text really informs the music. That was a real gift for me. It's been a labor of love the whole way."