Lowell Greer (1950-2022)

greer1Lowell Greer holds a unique place among the hornists of his generation. Known for his musicianship and versatility with or without valves, he has received critical acclaim and international recognition as an orchestral hornist, chamber musician, soloist, educator, and horn maker.

A Wisconsin native, Lowell began violin studies at age 4 and took up horn at age 12 due to a hand injury. His parents, both college professors, changed jobs several times, so Lowell had many horn teachers, the most notable being Ernani Angelucci of the Cleveland Orchestra. Lowell returned to Wisconsin to study with John Barrows at the University of Wisconsin and then pursued studies in Chicago with Helen Kotas, Frank Brouk, Dale Clevenger, and Ethel Merker. While in Chicago, he freelanced extensively, performing with the Chicago Civic Symphony, Lyric Opera of Chicago, American Ballet Theatre, Joffrey Ballet, shows, recordings, and as extra horn with both the Chicago and Milwaukee Symphonies.

Lowell joined the Detroit Symphony in 1972 as assistant principal. In 1978, he accepted the position of principal horn of the Mexico City Philharmonic and began to pursue his solo career. In 1980, he moved to Europe to better pursue his natural horn interests, and performed in Belgium as guest principal horn of the Antwerp Philharmonic/Royal Flemish Orchestra. He returned to the US in 1984, where he served as principal horn of the Cincinnati Symphony until 1986. He also performed as principal of the Toledo Symphony from 1990-1997.

During this time, he won seven first prizes at six prestigious international horn competitions: Heldenleben (1977), Gian Battista Viotti, Vercelli (1978), Hubertus Jaachthoornfestival (1979), SACEM, Paris (1981), Jacques-Francois Gallay (1981), and American (1983, 1984).

As a soloist, Lowell performed on natural and modern horn with some fifty orchestras in the US, Canada, Mexico, and across Europe, not to mention his appearances at numerous chamber music venues. His extensive discography includes four CDs on Harmonium Mundi, including the Mozart Horn Concertos and Quintet, Brahms Horn Trio, and the Beethoven Sonata on natural horn, and a recording for Decca L’oiseau Lyre of the entire music of Mozart for winds performed on original instruments.

A dedicated scholar and educator, Lowell taught at Wheaton College, Oakland University, Interlochen Arts Academy, the School for Perfection in Mexico City, the University of Cincinnati, the University of Michigan, and at the Carl Neilsen Academy in Odense, Denmark. An acclaimed expert on natural horn performance, his research led him to become a maker of fine reproductions of classic instruments, and he taught a course in natural horn building techniques at the William Cummings House starting in 1994.

Lowell was honored with the Punto Award at the 2008 International Horn Symposium in Denver, where he led his natural horn group, the Hunting Horns of General Washington. He was elected an IHS Honorary Member in 2014 at the symposium in London.

Nancy Jordan Fako

Fako 1965Nancy Jordan Fako (born 1942) became a member of the Chicago Symphony in 1964, the first female horn player in a major orchestra since Helen Kotas left the Chicago Symphony in 1948. She was also a mainstay of the IHS in its early years, becoming Secretary-Treasurer and handling correspondence and records, all without the aid of computerization until 1976 or of an executive secretary until 1979. The IHS is incorporated in Illinois because it was Nancy’s residence. She served four terms on the Advisory Council (1974–1981 and 2000–2008) and was secretary-treasurer in 1974-77 and 2000-2008.

Nancy studied with Philip Farkas in high school and at Indiana University, collaborated with him on The Art of Brass Playing, remained a close friend and colleague throughout his life, and after his death (at the request of his widow) wrote a biography, Philip Farkas & His Horn: A Happy, Worthwhile Life (Crescent Park Music Publications, 1998).

In addition to the Chicago Symphony, Nancy has been a member of the Houston Symphony, the Florida Symphony, and the Chicago Lyric Opera Orchestra. She was principal horn in the Florida Symphony at age 20, the first female brass player in the Houston Symphony at age 21, and a member of the Chicago Symphony at age 22.

Nancy is now a freelance horn player and teacher. She plays the alphorn at many festivals, including taking part in the Alpenfest in Gaylord, Michigan for over 25 years. She has contributed to professional journals (including The Horn Call) as a writer and as translator for several languages. She translated Daniel Bourgue's Conversations About the Horn from French to English.

Nancy received the Service Medal of Honor in 2012 and was elected an Honorary Member in 2016.

Radovan Vlatković

vlatkovicRadovan Vlatković (born 1962) is widely considered to be one of the world's most exceptional horn players. He grew up in Zagreb, Croatia and studied with Prerad Detiček at the Zagreb Academy of Music and Michael Höltzel at the Music Academy in Detmold, Germany. He was principal horn of the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra (1982-1990), a post he left to devote himself to a solo career. He has been professor of horn at the Mozarteum in Salzburg, Austria since 1998 and also teaches at the Escuela Superior de Musica Reina Sofia in Madrid. Radovan is a senior artist at the Marlboro Music Festival and has performed in chamber music and solo recitals for the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society.

As a student Radovan already won prizes at the International Horn Competition in Liége, Belgium, at the 12th Yugoslavian Music Competition, and at the International Competition "Premo Ancona" in Italy. Especially noteworthy was First Prize at the ARD International Competition in Munich in 1983; the prize had not been awarded to a horn player in 14 years.

As soloist Radovan has travelled most of the European continent, America, Canada, Mexico, Israel, the Near East, East Africa, Japan, and Australia. Among his appearances he played with the Radio Symphony Orchestra of Berlin, the Bavarian Radio Philharmonic, the BBC Symphony Orchestra London, English Chamber Orchestra, Academy of Saint Martin in the Fields, Camerata Academica des Mozarteums, in Japan with the Yomiuri Symphony Orchestra, Tokyo Metropolitan Orchestra, and the NHK Symphony Orchestra, and at IHS symposiums. He was Artistic Director of the September Chamber Music Festival in Maribor, Slovenia (2000-2003).

Radovan has an especially wide repertoire, reaching from the Ba roque to the 20th century. He has recorded for EMI Classics, with the English Chamber Orchestra under Jeffrey Tate, all the concertos by Mozart and Strauss. His recording of the Mozart concertos was awarded the German Recording Critics Prize. He received the Croatian Porin Award for his Life's Work in 2012 and the IHS Honorary Membership in 2013.

Gail Williams

gwilliamsGail Williams is admired for her tenure at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, her teaching at Northwestern University and at many clinics and workshops around the world, her solo and ensemble playing, and her support of new music.

Gail grew up on a farm in a musical family. Her mother studied percussion and viola; her brother, clarinet. Gail studied with Jack Covert at Ithaca College, then earned a master's degree at Northwestern University and performed with Lyric Opera of Chicago for four years before winning the audition for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 1978. She was assistant principal until winning the position of associate principal in 1984, where she remained until retiring in 1998.

Gail teaches at Northwestern University (since 1989), gives master classes at innumerable conservatories and workshops, is horn soloist with major orchestras, and is dedicated to performing chamber music. In 2001, 2005, and 2009, she has served as a judge for the Horn Solo Competition in Porcia, Italy and has coached young brass musicians with Summit Brass since 1986. She has been on the faculty of the Swiss Brass Week in Leukerbad, Switzerland for several years. Her music education degree and playing experience come together in her current teaching.

Gail is principal horn with the Grand Teton Music Festival Orchestra and was principal horn with the Saito Kenin Orchestra in Japan in 2004 and the World Orchestra for Peace in 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2009.

Gail has performed as soloist with the Chicago Symphony, San Antonio Symphony, Sinfonia da Camera, New World Symphony, the Grand Teton Music Festival Orchestra, Syracuse Symphony, Fairbanks Symphony, Green Bay Symphony, and a number of regional orchestras.

Gail is a founding member of the Chicago Chamber Musicians and Summit Brass. She has performed with the Vermeer Quartet, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in New York City, the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society, the Skaneateles Music Festival, Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, and the Olympic Peninsula Chamber Festival, and she was the featured artist on a chamber music series in Ottawa, Canada with the National Arts Orchestra of Canada.

Gail is active in commissioning projects and has premiered new works by Dana Wilson, Anthony Plog, Oliver Knussen, Yehudi Wyner, Collins Matthews, and others. In 1995, she premiered Deep Remembering by Dana Wilson and Anthony Plog’s Postcards at the International Horn Society Workshop in Yamagata, Japan. In 1997, she premiered Dana Wilson’s Horn Concerto with the Syracuse Symphony. A year later, she performed the Knussen Horn Concerto with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of Maestro Knussen. She helped commission Yehudi Wyner’s Horntrio, and was involved in the orchestration of Dragons in the Sky by Mark Schultz. She premiered another horn and piano work by Dana Wilson, Musings, in 2003 and performed the US premiere of a concerto for Horn and Orchestra by Collins Matthews at Northwestern University in June of 2005.

Gail can be heard on recordings from Summit Brass, including solo recordings 20th Century Settings and Deep Remembering, and Northwestern University’s Goddess Triology, featuring compositions by John McCabe and works for horn and percussion by Charles Taylor and Alec Wilder. A CD with the Chicago Chamber Musicians was nominated for a Grammy award.

Gail has been honored by Ithaca College with a Distinguished Alumni Award and an honorary doctorate. She received the Charles Deering McCormick Teaching Professorship at Northwestern University in 2005, which allowed her to commission and performed new chamber works by Douglas Hill, Dana Wilson, and Augusta Reed Thomas. She was a member of the IHS Advisory Council (1997-2000), received the Punto award in 2008, and was elected an Honorary Member is 2012.

In October 2021, Anthony Plog interviewed Gail for his podcast, which can be heard here.

Charles Kavalovski

kavalovskiCharles (Chuck) Kavalovski retired in 1997 after serving as principal horn in the Boston Symphony Orchestra for 25 years. He won this position with an unusual background for a horn player – a PhD and career in nuclear physics, and playing only in chamber ensembles and community orchestras. While teaching nuclear physics, he decided he wanted to see what he could do for a career as a horn player, so he took and won several auditions for principal horn. He played first horn in Denver for a year, during which results from other auditions came in, including first horn in the Boston Symphony, the position he took the following season.

Chuck was born in 1936 in St. Paul, Minnesota, the oldest of five children of Polish immigrants who wanted to give their children an education and musical training. His mother insisted he take piano lessons, which he hated. When he entered high school, his mother bought a Pan American single F horn and said that if he played the horn, he could quit the piano.

His college education led to a master’s degree in mathematics and another in business administration, plus a PhD in nuclear physics. Music was primarily a hobby, but he studied privately with the successive principal horns of the Minnesota Orchestra: Waldemar Linder, Christopher Leuba, and Robert Elworthy. In fact, he found a high correlation between science and music, and he and his colleagues in the Physics Department formed a wind quintet.

Chuck was on the physics faculties of the University of Washington in Seattle, University of Lowell in Massachusetts, now the University of Massachusetts-Lowell (while doing research at MIT), and Eastern Washington State College in Spokane. He has taught horn at Boston University and the University of Minnesota. He recommends a daily routine for all players, including spending time on fundamentals, starting every day learning to play the instrument over again so that technique does not deteriorate.

"I've been lucky to have two careers," he comments. "In this day and age, you have to specialize. I loved physics, but I also wanted to play the horn. Fortunately, I've been able to do both." He is also lucky, he says, "to have had the best horn job in the US." The BSO has the best hall, good management/orchestra relations (no strikes), and Ozawa was flexible with scheduling. Chuck had a say in hiring everyone in the section, and they were great colleagues. Boston is the "easiest large city to live in," the orchestra has summers at Tanglewood, and Chuck particularly appreciated the BSO Chamber Players, a unique arrangement for the first chair players, who don't play Pops. Boston also has a wonderful tradition of a public attitude that respects musicians as much as it does, for example, physicists.

Chuck has always been disciplined in his practicing, studying, work, and taking care of himself. He advises his students to train, physically, like an athlete. Because he had no formal musical education, his real training began on the job in Boston. He listened carefully to his colleagues in the orchestra and benefited from manuals written for Olympic and professional athletes. He values the ability to “focus on the passage in question while I’m playing it – note by note, so intently that everything else is shut out.”

Discipline helped Chuck recover from a serious fall off the roof of his house, landing on his head. He has no long-term effects, but for several months he was physically debilitated and could not move much. He pushed his recovery, walking before he was supposed to be out of bed, for example, starting slowly on the horn but then increasing his pace.

The BSO audition committee members were not sure they wanted to hire someone with a degree in nuclear physics and not much orchestral experience. They asked him to sight-read something and he responded that, if he won the job, he would never be sight-reading for them. They let him take the piece, practice it for an hour, and return to play it. He began his BSO tenure at Tanglewood and practiced on his apartment balcony in the rain and sun during the weeks before the summer series to prepare himself for the weather. He explained that he won all the jobs he did and performed so well for years in the BSO because he knew how to study – he was an excellent student.

Since retiring from the BSO, Chuck recorded 14 CDs of Reicha quintets with the Westwood Wind Quintet, until back problems forced him to retire again.

Chuck most often played a Geyer, Kruspe, or Schmidt horn and sometimes a Paxman descant. When he retired he owned over 20 horns, explaining that one good violin cost more than that.

Chuck served on the IHS Advisory Council (1994-1997) and was a featured artist at several international workshops. He was elected an IHS Honorary Member at the International Horn Symposium in San Francisco in 2011. Interviews with him have appeared in the November 1976 and February 1998 issues of The Horn Call.

Anthony Halstead

halstead-2Anthony Halstead has been a leader in the period instrument movement as horn player, harpsichordist, scholar, advisor, and conductor. He is a teacher who has influenced many professionals and is a coach of amateur hornists and other musicians. As an inventive technician, he has developed a range of mouthpieces (with Tony Chidell) and other aids to better sound production.

Halstead was born in 1945 in Manchester, England, attending Chetham’s School and the Royal Manchester College of Music, where he studied piano, horn, organ, and composition. At the suggestion of his horn teacher, Sydney Coulston, Halstead specialized in horn. He was principal horn in the BBC Scottish Symphony in 1966, later a member of the London Symphony Orchestra and first horn in the English Chamber Orchestra (1973-1986). It was during his tenure with the ECO that he became interested in the natural horn.

Halstead recalls a lecture-recital with Barry Tuckwell and Horace Fitzpatrick (author of The Horn and Horn Playing and the Austro-Bohemian Tradition from 1680-1830). Tuckwell played a fragment of a Mozart concerto or the Beethoven sonata on the modern horn, and then Fitzpatrick played the same passage on the natural horn. "I was utterly fascinated and charmed by the range of color," says Halstead, "as well as the appropriateness of the use of the stopped notes to either enhance a musical phrase or to bring some dramatic point to life."

halstead-1After leaving college, Halstead took several lessons with Horace Fitzpatrick and Myron Bloom. He also studied harpsichord with George Malcolm and conducting with Michael Rose and Sir Charles Mackerras.

His first public performances on natural horn occurred in 1973: the Bach Brandenburg Concerto No. 1 and the Telemann Concerto a tré for horn and recorder. He played on a Paxman hand horn (basically a modern horn with the valves removed) with the orchestra all on modern instruments. He has since been associated with the Academy of Ancient Music, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, and especially Hanover Band, has taught at the Guildhall School of Music, and is active as a private teacher and in the British Horn Society.

Halstead's work as a conductor in the period-instrument movement takes him to modern orchestras whose players, using conventional instruments, wish to develop a stylistic awareness of authentic practice in the baroque, classical, and romantic eras. He has a special empathy with the Australian Chamber Orchestra, the Netherlands Radio Chamber Orchestra, and the Uppsala Chamber Orchestra.

Halstead made his first solo CD in 1986, recording Weber’s Concertino on the natural horn with the Hanover Band for Nimbus. This been re-released. Halstead completed a seven-year project with the Hanover Band, recording on 22 CDs all the orchestral music of J.C. Bach and playing solo harpsichord or fortepiano in the 27 keyboard concertos, directing the orchestra from the keyboard.

Other solo CDs include the Concertos of Joseph and Michael Haydn, and two separate recordings, six years apart, of the Mozart concertos, with the Hanover Band and the Academy of Ancient Music. On the modern horn he has recorded the Britten Serenade with American tenor Jerry Hadley.

Halstead was elected an Honorary Member at the 2010 IHS Symposium in Brisbane, Australia. He is also an Honorary Member of the British Horn Society. Paul Austin interviewed him in the February 1996 issue of The Horn Call.

Robert Paxman (1929-2011)

paxman
Bob received a Lifetime Acheivement Award from the
Musical Idustires Association in 2010.

Robert (Bob) Paxman, MBE transformed Paxman Music Instruments from a maker of various instruments to one devoted to horns.

Bob's father had established Paxman Musical Instruments – as the company is still known – as a maker of brass, woodwind, and percussion instruments in 1919. Bob began working there when he was just 14 years old.

It was Bob Paxman’s partnership with an Australian horn player, Richard Merewether, that was to transform the company into one specializing in horns. Merewether arrived in England in 1950 with ideas about horn design – especially f-alto and  F/f-alto horns. Paxman began producing instruments in line with Merewether’s philosophy, and the two men collaborated closely until Merewether died in 1985 – with around 50 designs to their joint credit.

Bob became Managing Director of the company in 1961. He introduced a number of important improvements to horn design, including the dual-bore system for full double horns, the dual bore system for double descant horns, triple bore horns, and lighter weight titanium valves. In 1993 Bob was made a Member of the British Empire (MBE) and received his award from the Queen – the citation said the award was “in recognition of his services to the musical instrument industry.”

A modest and private man with a quiet, dry wit, Bob remained actively involved in horn design and was constantly looking to make design improvements. As recently as November 2010 – some time after his retirement as Managing Director - Bob was awarded a life time achievement award from the Musical Industries Association.

Bob was elected an IHS Honorary Membership posthumously in 2012.

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