Sunday, November 30, 2014

The NFB Horn Quartet - Jacques-Francois Gallay - Paul Hindemith - Jay Wadenpfuhl - Crystal Records 1989

This disc comes as a relief for anyone feeling horny (sorry, I'm immature) and has said horn music by Jacques-Francois Gallay (1795-1864), Paul Hindemith, and Jay Wadenpfuhl who happens to be one
of the members of the NFB Horn Quartet. This was an acquisition for the Hindemith Sonata.

Jaqcues-Francois Gallay was a virtuoso hornist and a composer of etudes and many other horn pieces that serve as part of contemporary horn player's daily bread. Gallay taught at the Paris Conservatoire and wrote dozens of exercises for his students, pieces that are still used today for improving flexibility and phrasing. Each of the horns in the "Grand Quartet" op. 26 is pitched in a different key. This was not a didactic move on Gallay's part; the only way he could write a work of such wide expressivity (by obtaining the number of pitches he desired) was to place each horn in a specific tonality. The work, in four movements, is dedicated to Rossini, whose operas Gallay played in the pit of the Theatre Italien. Musically, Rossini is very much in evidence in the "Grand Quartet" with it's soaring and graceful 'bel canto' lines and dramatic turns of phrases.

Paul Hindemith composed his "Sonata for Four Horns" in 1952, near the end of his 12-year tenure on the faculty at Yale University. The work is Hindemith's last major piece featuring the horn, having been preceded by a Horn Sonata (1939), Alto-Horn Sonata (1943 and also playable on the horn and alto saxophone), and a Horn Concerto (1949). As a former orchestra player (viola and violin) and sometimes hornist, Hindemith had gone out of his way to discover the tonal capabilities and and idiosyncracies of each orchestral instrument. He applied this knowledge in a specialized way to his many solo works for various instruments. Hindemith used several traditional forms (fugato, variations, recitative) with the variations of the third movement based on his own chorale theme "Ich schell mein Horn" (I sound my horn). The tonal style that Hindemith embraced during this period of his life finds especially rich utterance in the myriad horn sonorities woven throughout the sonata.

Jay Wadenpfuhl's "Tectonica for 8 Horns" makes somewhat dizzying demands of it's players and displays Wadenpfuhl's interest in jazz and Latin music. "Tectonica" is the Spanish word for tectonics, (plate tectonics) the geological term. "Large forces or masses represented as tonal centers interact, collide, transform and combine vertically and horizontally" says the composer. The basic motion of the piece, which employs the Lydian and Dorian modes, is from two notes to four notes to six notes. Once the work's bitonality and modality have been sorted out, the horns are sent on an upbeat excursion of running sixteenth notes guided by a Latin rhythm. I have to say I like how the final section, perhaps 30 seconds or so, abruptly incorporates percussion (similar to a salsa orchestra or a Latin/jazz ensemble) as I think it makes the work memorable. 

Track list:

Jaqcues-Francois Gallay "Grand Quartet" (21:51)

1) Allegro con brio (6:55)
2) Andante con moto (6:38)
3) Scherzo-Trio (3:38)
4) Finale:Vivace (4:29)

Paul Hindemith "Sonata for Four Horns" (15:10)

5) Fugato (2:02)
6) Lebhaft (4:24)
7) Variationen (8:37)

Jay Wadenpfuhl

8) "Tectonica" for Eight Horns (5:31)


Anonymous said...

You have such a wonderful diverse selection of music here. Thanks so much!!

Tzadik said...

Hi Anon person you are very very welcome! I appreciate all feedback, and like to know that you are enjoying what you hear. Feel free to comment anytime, that's what the blog's here for :)