Certainly one of the foremost natural horn players of our time is English virtuoso Anneke Scott. She records and tours extensively as a soloist and as principal horn with the finest period ensembles around the world, including the English Baroque Soloists, Europa Galante, The Kings Consort, and Sir John Eliot Gardiner’s Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique, among others. She is also a dedicated scholar and proponent of historically informed performance. Ms. Scott currently teaches at the The Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama and the University of Birmingham. Read this interview, and I promise you’ll come away educated, with fresh ideas on how to approach our beloved repertoire, whether valved or valveless. Thank you, Anneke! - KMT
Kristina Mascher-Turner: What was it that sparked your fascination with the natural horn in the first place?
Anneke Scott: I was first introduced to the instrument a few months before I did my music college undergrad auditions, so I was about 17 at the time. My teacher was honing his skills as an instrument repairer and had picked up some battered old piston horns and turned them into natural horns. He lent me one as he thought it might interest me - I was immediately hooked. What initially appealed was the challenge. I had to work it out more or less on my own, and I remember the frustration of becoming a beginner once more on pieces I thought I knew. When I went to music college (Royal Academy of Music, London) I started to meet other brass students who were getting interested in period instruments; plus we had John Wallace as head of department who did much to encourage us. The period instrument scene is very active in London, so all this made me want to focus on this aspect of playing in my career.
KMT: You studied the hand horn in three countries: the UK, France, and the Netherlands. Can you tell us something about the different traditions and approaches to the instrument you encountered in each one?
AS: I think there was definitely a different approach to teaching in the three institutions, and, though I'm not sure whether these approaches reflect a wider national tradition, I suspect my memories are also strongly influenced by the stages I was at in different places. The RAM had a rather gung-ho approach to period instruments. We were all encouraged to learn "auxiliary" instruments (period instruments such as natural trumpet, natural horn, sackbut, cornetto, serpent, ophicleide, or the additional modern instruments such as piccolo trumpet, flugelhorn, Wagner tuba, euphonium etc.) For a lot of people a basic idea of these instruments was sufficient, which in a way made it easy to feel that one was an expert while in essence still a beginner. One thing that I feel was incredibly important from my time studying at the RAM was that I was never told anything was difficult. I do remember, on having said yes to a student Bach cantata gig, my natural horn teacher (Andrew Clark) carefully saying I might like to take a closer look before saying yes in future (the cantata in question was screamingly high.) But it's something I certainly appreciate from Andrew’s teaching - he never said anything was difficult, and therefore I never developed a complex about what I was doing. Everything was approachable.
My studies in France and the UK overlapped somewhat. The RAM was superb about letting me slot in my studies in France. Claude Maury remains to this day probably my greatest influence; I don't believe I'd be doing what I do today without his continued generous mentorship. He had taken me under his wing when I first started going to France to play with the period youth orchestra, Jeune Orchestre Atlantique, and was very insistent that if I was to study in France I had to get to grips with the wide range of 18th/19th century methods we have from that country. This really helped me to improve. The one abiding memory I have of studying with Claude, though, is his insistence that we must never use the instrument as an excuse. We shouldn't shrug and explain away a fluffed passage with the argument that the notes are tricky/out of tune on the natural horn. Claude instilled in me the belief that these instruments aren't flawed and that it's our job to ensure the audience hears music rather than someone failing to surmount technical challenges. It was also Claude who introduced me to Gallay. It was a huge pleasure when, several years after I studied the Caprices with Claude, he agreed to produce the first two Gallay albums I recorded for Resonus Classics.
Finally, I studied in Amsterdam with Teunis van der Zwart. There were two reasons I wanted to study with Teunis: he is an amazingly accurate player (and that was something on which I wanted to focus), but also there is a big difference between the approach to baroque horn playing taken by British players and our continental colleagues. I felt it would be beneficial to spend some time studying Baroque horn in particular with him. The Dutch period performance departments are very hard-core; they're not for students who aren't totally committed. Luckily I had a Dutch grandmother so I had a bit of an idea about the brusqueness I would encounter in Holland (!) The main thing I took away from my studies in Holland was that it wasn't enough to be competent; it wasn't enough to play all the notes in tune and with a good tone; you had to play with rhetoric, with phrasing and with conviction.
KMT: What instruments do you own, and which of them is the oldest?
AS: The oldest instrument I have is a beautiful Lucien-Joseph Raoux cor solo from around 1800.
Ok, I'm embarrassed to admit I've lost count, but shall I hazard a roll call?
- "Revised" copy of Michael Leichnambschneider c. 1720s by John Webb/Antony Halstead
- Hoffmaster (Edinburgh collection, c. 1760s) copy by Richard Seraphinoff
- Lausmann c. 1790s copy by Andreas Jungwirth
- Lucien-Joseph Raoux cor solo c. 1800
- Marcel-Auguste Raoux cor d'orchestre c. 1820
- Stohr c. 1820s copy by Lowell Greer
- Sauterelle horns (horns with detachable valve blocks):
- Marcel-Auguste Raoux (1860s) with Boosey valve block (1910s)
Piston horns (most with crooks)
- Boosey, Hawkes, Boosey & Hawkes, Raoux, Selmer.
- Rotary horn (with either crooks or fixed lead pipe)
- Uhlmann, Kruspe, Bopp, Bohland und Fuchs, couple of others I can't remember.
- 19th century Péllison trompe de chasse
- Lidl Walzenhorn
- Jungwirth Vienna horn
- MANY 19th century tenor saxhorns (due to work with a group called The Prince Regents Band - one day I'll find one I'm happy with).
- Also my old 1960s Alex 103.
I'm sure there are instruments I've forgotten, but that gives you an idea of the scope.
KMT: Do you feel that a truly authentic historical performance of a work requires original instruments? How can a modern, valve horn player best recreate the intention of the composer when the work was originally written for natural horn?
AS: "Authentic" is a very difficult word; in many ways the period instrument movement has moved away from it, as it's so loaded. There used to be a lot of claims (mostly from labels and promoters perhaps?) about a group/recording/performance being the "most authentic performance yet" and, rightly, this has gone out of fashion. We'll never be able to be "authentic" as we see everything through the prism of our own time. Similarly, audiences come to performances with the sensibilities our own time.
A lot of people talk about "Historically Informed Performance" now, which opens up many possibilities. A performance on modern instruments can be "historically informed" - taking on board aspects of style, phrasing, tempi etc.
For me, one of the really attractive things about the natural horn is the wide range of colours available - not just in terms of the open/stopped notes, but also in terms of the particular colours and characteristics of the crooks. I'm not such a fan of people incorporating the stopped notes on the modern horn, but I would encourage people to explore how they can reflect the timbre of the different crooks - starting by using fingerings that bring you closer to the relevant crook - so try playing the Beethoven Sonata as much as possible on the open F side, or a Mozart concerto using the first valve on the F side.
But for me if there is one thing that would bring a modern, valve horn player, closer to the composers’ intentions, it would be finding out more about rhetoric. This underpins all music up until at least the mid 19th century. Everyone studied rhetoric, and it was an incredibly important element of the arsenal that made up an expressive musician. Rhetoric is the art of swaying an audience, of making them feel certain emotions, of taking them by the hand and leading them through a story in which they feel totally engaged.
Anyone who has studied sonata form will already have been introduced to rhetoric. If you were going to give a speech or write an essay you might be encouraged to use a form something like this:
- Introduction - set the scene and lay out the basic tenants of your argument/ideas
- Discussion/Defense - explore the arguments/ideas
- Summary - conclusion in which you reiterate things so that the audience goes away with the main points clearly in mind.
Compare this to sonata form:
- Exposition - set the scene and lay out the main themes
- Development - explore the main themes
- Recapitulation - conclusion in which you reiterate the main themes.
For anyone eager to learn more, the best place to start would be "Early Music is Dead" by Bruce Haynes or "The Weapons of Rhetoric" by Judy Tarling. Bruce Haynes, an amazingly influential musician, died whilst working on another book on rhetoric called "The Pathetick Musician" but, happily, this has been completed by his colleague Geoffrey Burgess. This is a recent publication and is also highly recommended.
KMT: Thorough research is crucial to accurate historical performance. How do you approach a work and bring it to life?
AS: There are various directions "in" to any piece. A lot of the time, my initial approach is dependent upon which is the easiest first approach! So, I might first source an appropriate instrument. Sometimes this is easy (Gallay on a Raoux cor solo), sometimes more complex (Haydn/Mozart for example - we tend to use instruments which are far too late for this repertoire. It's more common to see early 19th French instruments being used rather that mid/late 18th century German instruments, partially having to do with accessibility). Another way "in" is the "text" - the music in front of us. An important lesson to learn is that something is not necessarily trustworthy just because it's in print. Similarly it's important to learn that "Urtext" is not necessarily much better. It's quite a challenge making a modern edition of a piece - often there are discrepancies between and within sources, and editors often have to make an informed decision. This means frequently you're reading an interpretation, probably a very good one, but an interpretation nonetheless. This is why it can be very valuable to track down sources, to see what is actually there and make your own interpretation.
There are dozen of other things we can look at. Google Books is great for finding newspaper reviews of performances. We've also got a great history of methods and treatises to explore. For certain things, early recordings can throw up some very exciting new ideas.
I've been recently working on the Donald Tovey Trio for clarinet, horn and piano, and it's been a good case study for a lot of these elements. We know that Borsforf premiered this piece, so I've been trying out various piston horns from the period (including Borsdorf’s own.) My next step is to look a bit into the style of mouthpiece he was using (different from what most British players were using at the time). We've got a lot of information about the compositional process because Tovey wrote extensively on the piece. We've got reviews of this performance plus reviews of other performances by the individual performers of the period; plus, whilst we don't have a recording of the Trio, we do have many recordings of the musicians of the period performing other pieces that give us the opportunity to explore more about the style and techniques that they were using.
One book that I think every horn player, both modern and period, should have on their bookshelves is John Humphries "The Early Horn." In it Humphries includes a selection of case studies on pieces such as the "Quoniam" from the Bach Mass in B minor, the Joseph Haydn Concerto in D (Hob VIId:3) and the concerto attributed to Haydn (Hob VIId:4) Mozart KV495, the Beethoven Sonata Op. 17, Schubert Auf dem Strom, Schumann Adagio und Allegro, and Brahms Horn Trio Op. 40. These are perfect examples of bringing together various historical and organological sources to inform performance, and his sections on style and technique are a great place to start for any performer.
KMT: Do you find it a challenge to switch back and forth between hand horn and the modern horn? Is there a transition period of “making friends” with one when you’ve been performing on the other, or can you carry on with both simultaneously?
AS: There is no "normal" so changing instruments isn't too hard. What is slightly time consuming is "set up" time. There is the necessary maintenance of course, but often I have to make sure an instrument is happy working at a particular pitch. We get everything from A392 to A452, and recently I seem to have had a lot of unusual requests requiring an afternoon sitting down with bits of plumbing and finding solutions.
I normally tweak my choice of mouthpiece depending on the instrument and repertoire, so this is often a consideration in the preparation period. In a way changing mouthpieces is a bonus - I always try to focus on whatever I'm playing at the time and not to think of what I was playing yesterday or will be playing tomorrow. "Don't look down!" If I have a different mouthpiece, it helps me not to be lulled into the memory of what has just been.
Flexibility is a really important quality for musicians to have. Changing instruments isn't easy, but I suspect it's a bit like that old line about foreign languages, that there is a point where you're fluent in so many that adding another isn't much of a challenge. It certainly takes some getting used to, and you really have to pay attention and be super critical of what you're doing.
KMT: Your travel schedule is impressive. Do you have any secrets or hacks for coping with your time on the road?
AS: Ha! Yep. I think a lot of musicians reckon they could have a thriving career as a travel agent should the whim take them to change jobs!
Things that help - travel as light as possible but plan accordingly. I have an abiding hatred of (1) items that have come on tour and served no purpose and (2) having to buy something on tour, of which I have many at home!
I have an iPad with ForScore on it and a huge library of sheet music (Goodreader is a useful app for this) and audio as well as Bluetooth pedals to turn pages. This saves me having to take scores/sheet music etc. with me, a huge bonus. I always have a playlist called "Forthcoming" into which I pop a selection of recordings of repertoire coming up in the following months so will often use down time to listen to this.
For getting around www.rome2rio.com is brilliant - especially when something goes wrong! It gives alternatives for getting from A to B, so if the direct flight is cancelled you may well find that the next speediest choice is counterintuitive - taking a bus to a train station which will take you to another airport which flies to the next city from where you need to be. Similarly www.skyscanner.com is great for playing around with variables of travel.
I must admit one thing that makes a HUGE difference is my membership of something called the Priority Pass. This is a subscription that gets me into lounges in airports around the world. It means that there is somewhere quiet I can work or relax whilst waiting for a flight. Normally there's food and drink (great when you're flying out of a country that you haven't been performing in and therefore don't have the local currency!) and wifi. Often it's a lot calmer there than elsewhere in an airport so you arrive less frazzled!
The main thing I would say about travelling is to try and build in time for things that go wrong. Often that's not an option due to schedules, but I'm certainly one of those people who like to be early (the lounges are a great incentive for that!)
KMT: What relevance does the natural horn have in modern repertoire? What would you say to a composer to convince them to write for hand horn today?
AS: There is a great deal of overlap between the period performance and contemporary music worlds. I think practitioners in both camps have a lot of things in common, and I can think of a number of musicians who have careers in both. For both you have a lot of "extra" things to learn - notation, techniques, new styles, tuning systems etc.
A number of composers have written new compositions for the instrument. For me one of the best examples is still the orchestral writing in the Ligeti concerto. I also find the repertoire commissioned by Baumann for his competitions in the 1980s/90s fascinating.
In recent years quite a few composers have been commissioned to write for period orchestras. This is a huge generalisation, but by and large what I've heard hasn't really impressed me. If I may generalise some more, I've noticed a tendency for composers to play with the baroque/classical forms and structures but not really get to grips with the workings of the instruments and the colours that they have. If I may be a touch cynical I would say it is understandable that a composer may wish their work to have longevity and therefore it makes sense to create a piece that could work equally on period and modern instruments in the future, rather than limiting it to a period band.
I'm married to a composer (John Croft) and so have a bit of experience-by-proxy. John has written for me before (https://soundcloud.com/johncroft/une-autre-voix-qui-chante.) Initially I was cautious about playing this piece as it felt like I was entering another world. I think the reason I feel "Une autre voix qui chante" works is that John understands both how the instrument works and the colours that are available; also he's influenced by spectral music, a style that taps into a lot of things intrinsic in any natural instrument. John, unbeknownst to me, was working on this composition around the time I was recording the Gallay Caprices (the title of the work comes from a line in Gallay's Methode) so he had plenty of exposure to the instrument!
If a composer were interested in writing for the natural horn, my first suggestion would be to read part 3 of Dauprat's method - this is written with composers in mind and really explores what is possible. Then I would suggest they spend some time with a natural horn player and explore timbre and articulation. So much is possible on the instrument!
KMT: When you put your horns away, what other interests fuel you?
AS: I think my life really revolves around music! There is so much I want to do that it’s unusual to find me doing anything else. Yes, I keep fit (running and yoga mainly) but that is mainly because it benefits my playing and my ability to cope with the lifestyle more than anything else.
I listen to a lot of music and am constantly trying to listen to "new things". This is one thing I find great about social media - if I see anything recommended I'll get hold of it (I think I'm single-handedly keeping the CD market afloat - I also love reading sleeve notes so Spotify et al isn't for me). Downtime at home normally means good food and wine, music and long conversations with my husband.
I read a tremendous amount, again mostly to do with music, or tangential to music. I do tend to try and read fiction from the period/geographical region of things I'm working on. For instance, I've been doing a lot of early Victorian repertoire recently so got back into Walter Scott who was hugely popular at that point in time.
You can check out Anneke’s natural horn prowess on the following YouTube clips: