The standard of horn playing is nowadays far higher than it was at the beginning of my career. Through the media we have access to fantastic recordings, to knowledge about the many physical aspects of horn playing (embouchure, air control, body posture etc.) and to a lot of tools giving support to the mental aspects of stage performance.
There is however a reverse side to the medal. The equality in approach and sound ideal lead too many times to a humdrum uniformity. What is the deep sense of worldwide concert tours as almost all the orchestras sound more or less the same? Like in nature we absolutely need biodiversity. We should realize that in art, copies have basically hardly any value. With all the free modern media, we make ourselves completely superfluous, if we not are playing with a strong personal, not interchangeable, touch. All the available tools concerning developing embouchure, air control and mental stability are without any doubt very helpful, but at the end just tools. The ultimate goal is of course a unique, genuine expressive and musically eloquent presentation.
As a teacher I always try to focus on the unique qualities of every student. We need of course a strong training program, but a Procrustean bed of predetermined exercises can be catastrophic. Although we can learn a lot about developing our physical and mental condition from sports coaches, music should not be treated as a sport. Five years visiting the gym is of course not the appropriate preparation for a ballet performance. The physical and technical aspects of playing should always serve the musical message. For instance: practicing scales and arpeggios belongs to the daily routine, but it is essential to realize that we need a completely different approach for the scales in e.g. the Mozart horn concertos versus the 5th symphony of Shostakovitch. Practise also even scales and arpeggios always with a musical meaning! Further, use always your own imagination in solving musical and technical problems. A performing artist is not necessarely very creative, but should be at least inventive. Make your own exercises to handle difficult spots: play not only in a different (normally much slower) tempo, but also in different rhythmic patterns, meters, keys, dynamics etc. Playing just the main notes of a phrase or reducing the range to just one octave is giving grip to passages with big leaps; legato playing of a staccato excerpt is often more helpful than endless practising the original, etc., etc. From every spot in a solo piece you can make for yourself at least 10 helpful etudes. As a horn player you seldom play alone. Listening, reacting, taking initiative or following the other players is in musical practice as important as reliable playing. On the other hand, imagine during auditions always the illusory players around you. Create yourself the atmosphere of the piece, be always aware of the tempo, the tonality, the style and the dynamics before you start. Don’t copy, be yourself! We can’t reshape Peter Damm into Barry Tuckwell, or Vitaly Bujanovsky into Hermannn Baumann. Everyone is unique, but unfortunately not everyone has the potential of a fantastic performer. Develop also your own possibities and try to find a position in musical life which fits to your personality and possibilities. A good teacher is your guide. His ultimate goal should be to make himself superfluous in the long run.
This video is a live tv recording from June 1, 2016 by the Horn Class of the Conservatory of Amsterdam with me as conductor. We played an extract of my Ring Rhapsody: Siegfried schmiedet sein Schwert und erschlägt den Schlangenwurm (Siegfried forges his sword and slaughters the serpent). As you see, not only the music is a paraphrase, my title is lampooning Wagner’s odd alliteration style too.
Please enjoy also this audio of my horn ensemble Capricorno:
Robert Schumann, arr. Herman Juriessen: Jagdlied op. 82, nr 9:
Anton Bruckner, arr. Herman Jeurissen: Das hohe Lied:
These recordings are from our CD entitled Paraphrases.
HERMAN JEURISSEN (*1952) is professor for horn at the Conservatory of Amsterdam and the Royal Conservatory in The Hague. He was principal horn in the Residentie Orchestra, The Hague for 35 years. As a soloist and chamber musician he has played all over the world. He is also active as a arranger: he has written reconstructions of unfinished Mozart horn concertos K 370b &371 and K 494a, a three part horn method and numerous arrangements. Jeurissen’s Wagner transcriptions for horn and for brass ensemble are performed worldwide and have frequently been recorded (by the Horns of the Berlin Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony Orchestra Brass, German Horn Ensemble, Neos Brass, and his own ensemble Capricorno, which consists of a pool of his current and former students). During his entire career he has been active in the field of coaching and training young talent. Among his former students are numerous excellent players, i.e.two principal and both third horn players of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra (Jasper de Waal, Laurens Woudenberg, Fons Verspaandonk, José Sogorb) as well as many reliable teachers, who succesfully take care of the next generation of Dutch horn players.