Happy Lunar New Year! I’m so excited to welcome you to this edition of Horn and More! The new lunar year is a time that centers around prosperity and good fortune. This is the Year of the Rabbit, and rabbits are known to be quick, docile, and cautious animals. The Year of the Rabbit symbolizes thoughtfulness, peace, and good luck. As I think of our wonderful horn community, I am grateful to enter this new year with such a supportive and inclusive environment that really is a true family. In 2023, I look to a community that enjoys sharing its love of music and knowledge. Let the lunar new year inspire you to embrace a fresh start, and may it be a year full of beauty and bounty.
Thank you to all the contributors for this newsletter. Along with regular features Fearless Performance and the Pedagogy Column, here are the offerings for February:
Karen Houghton shares about her friendship with Valery Polekh;
Heidi Lucas introduces us to her horn-tuba-piano trio, Eastern Standard;
Horn on Record highlights Polish hornist Józef Brejza and his recording of the Othmar Schoeck Concerto;
from Latin America, enjoy an interview with Colombian salsa hornist Paola Tobon;
we meet hornist Alex Hamm through his beautiful photography;
and, the Composer Spotlight shines on Ruth Gipps.
Lastly, I hope to see everyone at the International Horn Symposium in Montréal this summer! I look forward to the wonderful guest artists, concerts, and clinics—but my most lasting memories of the symposiums are the friendships, comradery, and connections I have made over the years. Whether you are someone just beginning on the horn, a student, or a professional, there is something for you at the symposium, and I welcome you to visit beautiful Montréal!
May the magic of this Lunar New Year be with you always!
Dr. Margaret Tung, IHS Advisory Council Associate Professor of Horn (starting fall 2023) University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music
United by Music
by Karen Houghton
James Decker was one of the first-call studio hornists in Los Angeles from the 1950s through the 1980s, and he also taught at the University of Southern California. Even though Dennis and I were both studying with Fred Fox at California State University-Long Beach, we were fortunate to be able to take lessons with Mr. Decker as well during part of that time.
I can recall several times when Mr. Decker would call me on the phone asking, “Hey, I have a studio call tomorrow. Do you want to come over and play some duets or excerpts so I can get my chops in shape?” The answer was always, “Yes!” with me dropping whatever I was doing and racing over to his house in Naples, Long Beach. (There may have even been at least one speeding ticket received during those trips!)
The training I received from him on orchestral excerpts was invaluable. To this day, I teach the excerpts the same way he taught them, passing down to my students the pearls of wisdom from a master teacher.
One recollection that is now funny to me is the time he assigned the B-natural horn solo from Brahms’ Symphony no. 2 to be prepared for the following week’s lesson. In Max Pottag’s excerpt book, the part was printed in the original notation (in H), but it also came with a transposed part (in F). Of course, I chose to practice the transposed version and felt very confident and prepared walking into the next lesson. Just as I was about to start, he grabbed a big permanent black marker and proceeded to scribble out the transposed part. My embarrassed reply: “I’m going to need another week.”
An amusing memory for both of us was the time he drove me and another student up to Santa Barbara to attend a concert at The Music Academy of the West where he was the horn instructor. We stopped for lunch on the way and while we were waiting for our food to be served, he handed us a napkin and pen and instructed us to write out the solo from Till Eulenspiegel from memory. There was no Google back then, so we were thankful that our food came quickly!
Mr. Decker was extremely active in the southern California music scene. He was the host of the IHS Symposium at the University of Southern California in 1979. Dennis and I were both invited to help with the preparations and with attending to the needs of the visiting artists, including Alan Civil, Daniel Bourgue, and two very famous Russian horn players, Vitaly Bujanovsky, and Valery Polekh who was then principal horn in the Bolshoi Theater Orchestra.
I was first introduced to Valery Polekh when I attended his masterclass at the USC Symposium. He stood at the front of the classroom next to his interpreter and played for us his recording of Reinhold Glière’s Horn Concerto which the composer had written for him. Hearing the beautiful, lyrical phrases actually moved me to tears. He seemed to be singing through the horn, creating a truly glorious musical experience. At the end of the masterclass, I ran up to meet him and to play for him. Afterward, he invited me to come study with him in Russia the following year! I still tease Dennis that I could have gone to Russia but I married him instead (we were married in August 1979). But, because of the time spent together in Los Angeles, the three of us began a friendship that lasted over the next several years.
Dennis Houghton, Vitaly Bujanovsky, Karen Houghton, and Valery Polekh; Long Beach, California, 1979
During this time, the United States was in the middle of the Cold War with the Soviet Union. I corresponded with Polekh through letters, translated into Russian by Igor, a friend of Mr. Decker’s in the Los Angeles Philharmonic. In turn, Polekh would write me letters translated to English by his daughter. When I received his letters, the seal had been obviously opened, very probably by the postal service or the US government. But there was no James Bond stuff happening; it was just a student and teacher happily talking about horn and horn playing.
A letter from Valery Polekh to Karen Houghton.
As many know, Van Cliburn became one of the most famous musical ambassadors to Russia. In June 1958, he won the coveted Tchaikovsky Competition, an astonishing feat for an American pianist. Even during the Cold War and heightened tensions between our two countries, there were moments which were transcended by the power of music. The Moscow Symphony visited and performed in Los Angeles in 1960. And Mr. Decker and his wife were able to travel to Russia to visit Valery Polekh and his family in the 1980’s.
Music has a way of uniting all of us, regardless of our differences. As Henry Wadsworth Longfellow noted, “Music is the universal language of mankind.” I am profoundly grateful for the opportunities I have been given to learn from some of the finest teachers and players in the world. I strive to honor them every day in my teaching as I share my love for the horn.
Get Social With Us!
The International Horn Society seeks a creative individual to join our team as the IHS Social Media Coordinator. We are looking for a collaborative, self-motivated individual who will help us create and share content reflective of our values: Community, Respect, Diversity, Inclusion, Equity, and Collaboration. Our goal is to expand our digital impact and increase genuine interaction within the international horn community through our social media channels. Annual compensation for the position is $3,600 USD. Interested parties, please visit the IHS website for more information. Applications are due by February 19, 2023.
Eastern Standard, Part 1: The Ensemble
by Heidi Lucas
The days were tinged with the crispness of the oncoming 2014 fall season in western Pennsylvania; peak foliage loomed, and the air was charged with the anticipation born from the excitement and promise of a newly formed collaboration. At the time, Heidi Lucas (horn), Zach Collins (tuba), and Jacob Ertl (piano) were all on the faculty at Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP). They had met just prior to the beginning of the semester while recording for the Keystone Wind Ensemble album of works by Fisher Tull, through which they had been able to get a sense for each other as performers and as humans.
Lucas, Collins, and Ertl had their first trio performance as a part of a faculty recital that fall, and things clicked quickly for the group. They discovered a shared love of chamber music, found that they worked well together, and arranged to perform a recital each subsequent semester in order to keep the fun going. They held a contest to find a name for the group, and after sifting through numerous submissions, decided on “Eastern Standard,” although the name is taken from a craft beer as opposed to the time zone!
After having read through most of the available repertoire written for horn, tuba, and piano (which, at that point, they estimated to be around 2 dozen pieces), they decided that their mission would be to commission composers to write for the instrumentation, premiere, perform, and record the works, and try to raise awareness of the genre in order to promote new music and chamber music performance.
Eastern Standard (l-r): Heidi Lucas, Jacob Ertl, Zach Collins
The group has performed at IHS, ITEC, NERTEC, NEHW, SEHW, and SWHW conferences, as well as in concert at numerous universities, and more recently in public schools and community centers as part of their focus on outreach. In addition to the release of two albums—the first comprised of works that had not previously been recorded as well as three commissioned pieces, and the second entirely comprised of commissions—the group plans to release a third album of commissioned works in 2024. IUP awarded Eastern Standard a grant to support the creation of a documentary, which followed the process of the recording of their first album, Eastern Standard. Both Eastern Standard and their second album, Wanderlust, are available on streaming platforms. By December of 2024, the group will have commissioned and premiered over two dozen new works for this instrumentation. Although Collins remains at IUP, both Ertl and Lucas have moved to other institutions: Ertl is now on the faculty of Nazareth College, and Lucas at the University of Delaware. Despite the geographic challenges, the group continues to perform, tour, commission, record, and seek new ways to raise the awareness of both this type of ensemble and the composers who write for it. As part of the group’s website, they maintain a section with a listing of works for this instrumentation, as well as dissertations and relevant resources. Please contact them (via their website) if you know of any items to add to the lists.
For more information about the ensemble, the composers with whom they’ve worked, and upcoming projects, visit easternstandardtrio.com, and watch for Eastern Standard, Part 2—The Repertoire in the March issue of Horn and More.
Advisory Council Elections
Annual elections for the IHS Advisory Council open on February 1, 2023. There are two ways to vote:  vote online by clicking the link on the IHS homepage when you are logged in using your member account; or,  vote using the mail-in postcard included in the February issue of The Horn Call. Please vote—your voice matters!
Horn on Record
by Ian Zook
Volume 5—Jósef Brejza
Our next Horn on Record entry explores a lesser-known concerto for horn by Swiss composer Othmar Schoeck, recorded by the venerable Polish hornist Józef Brejza.
This album, featuring Othmar Schoeck’s Concerto for Horn and Strings, Op. 65, was released in 1969 by Józef Brejza and the Zurich Chamber Orchestra, and it is the first recording of this concerto. It has since been recorded by artists including Hermann Baumann, Bruno Schneider, and Marie Luise Neunecker. (For an interesting history on the genesis of Schoeck’s concerto and its dedicatee Willi Aebi, check out this history furnished by Herman Baumann.)
Józef Brejza was born in 1936 in Kończyce Małe, near Cieszyn, Poland. After early experiences playing the horn in a military brass band, he joined the Silesian Philharmonic as first horn and studied at the Academy of Music in Katowice with Adam Przybyła. Soon after graduating in 1957, he joined the National Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra as solo horn, where he performed between 1959-1962.
He was a laureate of many international music competitions, including the Geneva, Moscow, and Prague Spring competitions. Following his success in Geneva, he began playing with the Basel Symphony Orchestra while studying natural horn at the Basel Conservatory. Brejza decided to end his tenure with the orchestras in Poland and relocated permanently to Switzerland. There, he performed for the remainder of his career as a first horn in the Basel Symphony Orchestra. Brejza also premiered many works including Wojciech Kilar’s Sonata for Horn and Piano, Armin Schibler's Prologue, Introduction et Danse, and Musik für Horn und Schlagzeugensemble by Rudolf Kelterborn. He also gave the Polish premiere of Gliere’s Horn Concerto in 1957.
Brejza taught at the Conservatory of Music in Basel from 1965-1996 and then retired from both teaching and performing in 1997.
Now let’s enjoy the music!
The secondary theme in Schoeck’s Concerto is chromatic and searching, a contrast from the pompous and rhythmic spirit of the opening theme. Brejza plays with grand sustain here, pulling through the chromaticism and very subtly tapering the more tonal conclusions:
Later, near the end of the first movement, Brejza’s high range soars with declamatory finality:
The slow movement of the concerto contains sophisticated writing. Here, Brejza’s unflinching dynamics obscure any subtleties in the cantabile phrasing. He also chooses to play con sordino rather than the marked gestopft:
The closing Rondo is charming and effervescent music, harkening to our forested horn calls but with cheeky interjections of chromaticism. Brejza sails through the melody with tidy articulation and an enviable consistency throughout the range:
Schoeck’s Concerto closes with a melancholic melody that suddenly snaps back into the expected jaunty ending. Brejza’s most notable performing characteristics are on display here in his committed melodic sustain, full-throated dynamics, and succinct articulation:
We hope you have enjoyed listening to the Concerto, Op. 65 by Othmar Schoeck and learning more about our horn heritage from Poland. Do you have any feedback or album requests? Visit us at Horn on Record!
Paola Tobon Interview
by Gabriella Ibarra
This glimpse into Latin-American musical culture is brought to you from Boston. Taking the horn out of the symphonic setting was the innovative starting point for Colombian hornist, Paola Tobon. Having studied music production at Berklee College of Music, Paola is currently a music therapist and teacher in Revere, Massachusetts USA. It is my great pleasure to introduce you to another inspiring project that invites us all to imagine and explore. I hope you enjoy this insightful interview with Paola as well as her exhilarating Salsa Music videos available at https://www.youtube.com/@paolatobon1668.
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6/4 Mambo for Horn and Jazz Combo, by John Jacob Graas, Jr.
6/4 Mambo is an interesting unpublished piece of chamber jazz for a quartet consisting of horn, guitar, bass, and drums. It was registered for copyright on February 21, 1955. The John Jacob Graas Archive at Ball State University has two versions of the tune. One is a set of manuscript parts which includes a condensed “publisher copy” scored for trombone, guitar, bass, and drums. In the second version, the horn replaces the trombone. Both versions were used by Jeffrey Snedeker for the creation of this present edition.
What do we REALLY fear when we say we’re afraid of missing a note or messing up on stage? We’ve heard all sorts of answers to this question, from “I don’t want to embarrass myself” to “If I do well, I could be Jen Montone’s next third hornist!” to “I did not spend all that money and eat all that ramen to fly across the country to play like this.”
Dig a little deeper and imagine a time when you handled yourself well. You were able to share a GREAT version of yourself with others, yet you still had critics in the audience: you still weren’t the right fit for that job, or you were still out a few hundred bucks from your travel. Ramen aversion aside, was it truly the results that you feared? Or were you able to walk away from the experience with some amount of fulfillment?
Katy, here. I may not have Jeff’s magical pig-farming background, but I do have a formal background in skill acquisition, which, although less muddy, I like to think is just as magical. My instinct is that it’s not truly the mistake or result we’re fearing. We fear whether we’ll be able to handle ourselves well under pressure. In other words, we fear our ability to self-regulate while preparing for and executing a performance.
Self-regulation is our ability to covertly monitor ourselves and adjust our internal states, emotions, and understanding, then overtly choose, execute, and adjust our performance strategies to move toward...
Please visit hornsociety.org/about-the-ihs/scholarships for current information and requirements for awards and competitions. The 2023 deadline for Mansur, Hawkins, and Premier Soloist is March 20, 2023. Be sure to apply in time!
Composer Spotlight—Ruth Gipps
by Caiti Beth McKinney
Hello, Horn Friends!
Happy February! This month, I am drawing your attention to a composer who has recently been experiencing a resurgence in popularity, Ruth Gipps. Born in a small, English seaside town in 1921, Gipps was an opinionated woman who tolerated no nonsense. This is perhaps unsurprising considering that she was regarded as a child prodigy in a time when even adult women performers, composers, and conductors in Classical music were still very few in number. Famously known for her direct, almost confrontational approach, Gipps staunchly opposed the Modernist movement and 12-tone compositional technique, instead choosing to follow in her mentors’ (Gordon Jacob and Ralph Vaughn Williams) styles, what she called “English pastoralism.” One of her priorities as a composer was to ensure that her music was accessible to a broad audience, containing memorable melodies in contrast to the Modernists’ embrace of atonality.
Ruth Gipps left us horn players several substantive works which are beginning to be performed more and more frequently, the most well-known of which is her Horn Concerto, Op. 58. What’s incredible to me, personally, about this piece is Gipps’ balance between intense technical virtuosity and melodic material; for example, in the first movement of the piece, interspersed between lyrical, flowing lines are blindingly fast arpeggiated motives which require the lightest of articulations. The second movement is a particular favorite of mine; it alternates between a lilting 7/8 and 3/8 time in a joyful scherzo which I find stuck in my head for days at a time. Also not to be missed are Gipps’ Sonatina, Op. 56 for horn and piano, and her surprisingly challenging narrated work, The Three Billy Goats Gruff for horn, oboe, and bassoon. If you are interested in learning more about this dynamic composer, check out Jill Halstead’s book entitled Ruth Gipps: Anti-Modernism, Nationalism and Difference in English Music. It’s a great read!
New Deadline for Meir Rimon Commissioning Assistance Fund
I grew up in a small town outside of Prague, in the Czech Republic. I started horn at age nine, and I worked hard at mastering the instrument. My father was an amateur trumpet player, and he really wanted to see me succeed on the horn. By the time I was fifteen, I was practicing many hours a day, but something happened. I’m not even sure what it was, but my lips felt wrong, my embouchure felt wrong, and I couldn’t play.
I took a lot of time away from the horn. Then I began to play again, very slowly. I rebuilt my playing from the ground up, starting with Lesson One. I was young, and I wasn’t panicked; if I decided to do something different with my life, I could. I worked methodically, and finally recovered my playing, eventually realizing that many of the problems I had experienced were probably more mental than physical. The point here, though, is that you can overcome a traumatic thing like this.
I went on to study with Bedřich Tylšar—he and his brother Zdeněk were very famous Czech horn players—at the conservatory in Prague (the Pražská Konzervatoř). Mr. Tylšar was a strict teacher who insisted on perfect rhythm, perfect intonation, and absolutely consistent sound. He passed the Czech horn playing tradition down to me. Toward the end of my studies at the conservatory, I was able to spend six months at the conservatory in Paris, studying with the great French player André Cazalet. Mr. Cazalet taught me to be free, to trust my musical heart, to play with soul.
Mr. Cazalet also taught me the French system of warming up. It involves lots of scales and lots of precision. I found that if I do this routine daily, it takes me about forty minutes, and it makes me ready to face any playing challenge. But I have to do the warmup correctly: it must be in time, in tune, and accurate.
When I got back to Prague and continued with Mr. Tylšar, we occasionally had arguments about interpretation. Sometimes he would want more strictness while I would want more freedom. But he was able to see that the things I had learned from Mr. Cazalet made my playing more beautiful.
Through these two streams of pedagogy, one focusing on perfection of detail and the other on beauty and art (after warming up on perfection of detail), I became the horn player I am today. I now play third horn (and sometimes principal) in the Czech Philharmonic, and I love my job. I am a little sad that the old Czech style of horn playing is slowly being lost, but it is, at least, still demonstrated to this day in the great playing of Radek Baborák.
Next summer, IHS 55 will offer hundreds of workshops, recitals, concerts, and more! But we also hope that during your stay you will find the time to experience some of Montréal’s attractions. Here is a little preview of what you can expect from the city.
First, Montréal is home to many, many, MANY parks, from city squares to large nature parks. Mount-Royal, a must see during your stay, offers 200 hectares of green space in the middle of the city, and it is conveniently located right next to Université de Montréal where the symposium will be held! And if you want more greenery, you can visit the Lafontaine of Maisonneuve parks which provide great spots for an outdoor escape without leaving the city.
Did you know Montréal is home to the tallest inclined tower in the world? The Olympic Stadium with its iconic tower was designed by French architect Roger Taillibert. It was built for the 1976 Summer Olympics, and with its 65,000 seats, it has since then welcomed hundreds of events such as baseball and football games, concerts by U2, Madonna, and many more. It is easily accessible by public transportation, and you can also visit the Space for Life Museums: the Botanical Garden, the Biodome, the Insectarium, and the Planetarium.
And finally, we could not pass on the famous Montréal-style bagel. It is an absolute must-try during your visit! It is different from the New York-style bagel. It is thinner, sweeter, and denser, and it is boiled in honey-sweetened water before being baked in a wood-fired oven. There are many different spots where you can find Montréal-style bagels—some of them have been around for decades. Make sure to let us know what you think of Montréal bagels next summer!
We hope this gives you a taste of what the city has to offer. We are looking forward to seeing you next summer!
- The IHS 55 team
To register for IHS 55, visit www.ihs55.org. Early bird discounts are available until April 1st!