Congratulations to Larry Williams for a job well done: a recording of intelligen
Larry Williams’s new cd “Black Forest” features music for horn in several different settings: with orchestra, with organ, unaccompanied, and with electronics.
The opening work is a Concerto for French Horn and Orchestra by James Schroeder, titled "The Black Forest." The two substantial movements speak with drama and seriousness:
The narrative flow in the solo part strongly suggests a program. The horn and orchestra engage in very active dialogue, the work has the feel and sound of a tone poem. The solo horn is asked to sustain passages of impressive duration, with occasional moments of nimble agility. Larry Williams is in complete command throughout, playing with beauty and authority.
Alan Hovhaness' Concerto for Horn and String Orchestra, "Artik", is next. This is a live recording, with Donald Sutherland performing the string orchestra score on organ. Sutherland voices his instrument perfectly, and Hovhaness' rich string writing is well served by the organ here. Williams' control is impressive, especially as this is done live, and he understands the flexible lyricism of Hovhaness' narrative language, with its roots in both Armenian folk music and early Eastern Christian chant.
The one work on the cd that is not contemporary is Bach's 4th Suite for unaccompanied cello, which Williams has adapted for solo horn. He negotiates all the large intervals and long phrases well, and rightfully joins the other brass soloists who have documented their study of this music. It is my opinion that Bach's unaccompanied works for violin and cello require the sympathetic resonance of the string instruments to be fully heard, and that these overtones cannot be produced on any sort of solo wind instrument. That being said, Williams' performance is fine, and I particularly enjoyed his interpretation of the inner dance movements.
Two more works by Jim Schroeder complete the cd, both using electronic instruments to accompany the solo horn. "Pennsylvania" seems very appropriate to follow the Bach Suite: it has the feel of some of Bach's organ toccatas, with a weighty, swaying feel that is quite attractive. Again Williams brings a sense of majesty to the solo line, and towards the end ascends into a part of the high register where hornists rarely venture.
The final piece, "Adagio for Horn and Strings" has an almost bluesy atmosphere, and once again I must praise Williams' command of color and nuance, as well as his prodigious endurance. Schroeder has written three very expressive, distinctive works, making one curious about hearing more of his music.
Congratulations to Larry Williams for a job well done: a recording of intelligence, expression, and high skill.
- Chris Gekker, Professor of Trumpet, University of Maryland