John Barrows (1913-1974)
John R. Barrows was known for his elegant playing, his impeccable musicianship, his dedicated teaching, and his friendship with composer Alec Wilder, who once said that when his music was played by John Barrows it somehow came back sounding better than he had thought it could.
Barrows was born in 1913 in Glendale CA. His early years were spent in Montana, where he played euphonium. During his high school years in San Diego, he studied cello and later, horn. He attended the Eastman School of Music (1930-1932), San Diego State Teachers College (1933-1934), and Yale University (1934-1938). His teachers included Richard Donovan and David Smith.
Barrows joined the Minneapolis Symphony in 1938, then served as assistant leader of the Army Air Forces Band during World War II, and afterwards moved to New York and played with the City Opera (1946-1949) and the City Ballet (1952-1955). He also appeared in San Juan PR with the Casals Festival Orchestra (1958-1961) and occasionally worked with such artists as Woody Herman, Miles Davis, and Billie Holiday.
Chamber music was important to Barrows. He performed with such ensembles as the Budapest String Quartet and the Pasquier Trio before co-founding the New York Woodwind Quintet in 1952. Barrows made few recordings, but those with the quintet are among his best. Many reviewers have called the quintet the finest woodwind quintet in the world, and Barrows' horn playing was crucial to its success. He also performed regularly with the Fine Arts Quartet in Milwaukee. Barrows wrote, "There is no other musical experience that can quite equal playing chamber music in intensity of self-expression and yet within the framework of cooperative effort."
Barrows wrote several chamber works and made numerous arrangements for band. He was concerned about the limited repertoire for horn, so he performed little known works. Wilder's three sonatas and one suite were written for him, and the singing melodies in Wilder's works brought out Barrows' best playing.
Barrows taught at Yale (1957-1961), New York University (1958-1961), and finally at the University of Wisconsin at Madison (1961-1974), where he taught all levels although he could have accepted only the most advanced students. His influence, through his sense of humor and high artistic standards, won the admiration of audiences, the respect of students, and the devotion of friends.
Barrows was elected an Honorary Member in 1989. Tributes appear in the May 1974 issue of The Horn Call. The John Barrows Memorial Scholarship was established at the University of Wisconsin in 1974.
Vitaly Bujanovsky (1928-1993)
Vitaly Mikhailovich Bujanovsky was a leader in the Russian school of wind playing, principal horn in the Leningrad Philharmonic, a soloist and chamber musician, composer and arranger of music for horn, and taught a generation of players, both Russian and from around the world. He taught that technique is not a goal in itself. Frøydis Ree Wekre, who studied with him in Leningrad, wrote, "Through his interpretive style one realizes that the horn has as many artistic possibilities as any of the traditional solo instruments."
Bujanovsky was born in 1928 in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) into a family of artists and musicians. His grandfather was a violinist to the Czar, and his father, Michael Nicolaevich Bujanovsky, was principal horn of the Kirov Opera Orchestra and professor at the Rimsky-Korsakov Leningrad Conservatory. Bujanovsky's first lessons were with his father, and he joined his father's section at the Kirov in 1946.
Bujanovsky won the International Reicha Competition in Prague (1953) and the gold medal at the International Competition in Vienna (1959). The latter victory brought world-wide fame and respect and recognition for the Russian school of wind playing, which until then had been dismissed by critics. In 1951, Bujanovsky started teaching at the Leningrad Conservatory (now the Rimsky-Korsakov Saint Petersburg State Conservatory), where he was appointed Honored Artist (1963) and artist of the People (1978). He also taught at the Music High School and was essentially responsible for all horn instruction in Leningrad. Lessons were taught in an informal master class setting.
In his instruction, Bujanovsky emphasized an understanding of the composer's intent, the national characteristics that influenced his work, and the human voice as a model for interpretation. He had an extensive collection of Russian sacred music and felt that this genre was a point of departure for understanding Russian composers before Shostakovich.
Bujanovsky appeared widely as a soloist. On one memorable occasion in 1970, he played all the Mozart works for solo horn and orchestra - the four concerti, the Concert Rondo and the E major fragment - in one concert. He also recorded these and some three dozen other works. His style for the Mozart was clear and lyrical, an approach in keeping with his father's training and perhaps influenced by his mother, an opera singer.
Bujanovsky's recorded many horn standards, including the Dukas Villanelle. When orchestral parts were not available for the Dukas, Bujanovsky made his own orchestration from the piano score. His orchestration skills are not surprising, given his talent as a composer. He wrote a solo sonata for Hermann Baumann, two works for Peter Damm, chamber music with prominent horn parts, and other works. He also inspired other Soviet composers to write for the horn. His España for solo horn has become a frequent work at horn symposiums since Frøydis introduced it in 1977 at the International Horn Workshop in Hartford CT.
Bujanovsky founded a woodwind quintet within the Leningrad Philharmonic. Many Soviet composers wrote for the ensemble, including Yuri Falik, whose quintet The Clowns is a staple of the repertoire.
Bujanovsky was elected an IHS Honorary Member in 1985. A tribute to him appears in the November 1993 issue of The Horn Call.
Domenico Ceccarossi (1910-1997)
Domenico Ceccarossi sought to elevate horn playing to the level of perfection attained by violinists, pianists, and singers. His recordings, writings, and compositions confirm that he succeeded in his goal, all the more remarkable in that he lived through two world wars, economic depression, and Mussolini.
Ceccarossi was born in 1910 and grew up in a small village in central Italy, where he played with local bands. He joined the Radio Orchestra of Milan at age 21, moved a few years later to the Academia di S. Cecilia Orchestra in Rome, and in 1944 was appointed solo horn with Radiotelevisione Italiana, where he stayed until 1970. He continued to concertize until 1982, after which he continued to teach, write, and edit.
Ceccarossi taught at the Conservatories of both Rome and Pesaro from 1951. Although he was self-taught, he was effective as a teacher and students came to him from around the world.
Ceccarossi recorded much of the horn literature, almost all made from start to finish without dubbing, and many are live performances. If his tonguing seems heavy and his tone thin, this may be attributed to the recording environment; however, he never missed a note and his high register sings out clearly. RCA recorded The Art of Domenico Ceccarossi under more favorable conditions, and this recording stands as an excellent representation of his technical and musical prowess. Harold Meek observed that Ceccarossi's technique never fails to serve the music.
Ceccarossi's style inspired many composers: nine concertos have been dedicated to him, and composers wrote a score of sonatas and other compositions. Elliott Carter mentioned learning the possibilities of horn technique from Ceccarossi while living in Rome in the 1950s. Ceccarossi especially expanded the literature for horn, voice, and piano. He founded Trio Ceccarossi in 1958 with his wife, soprano Jolanda Colizza Ceccarossi, and pianist Loredana Franceschini, and they toured Europe for many years, their repertoire eventually growing to over thirty pieces, twelve written for them.
Ceccarossi, along with the mayor of Lanciano (on the eastern coast of Italy), established a summertime musical event in the Lanciano Estate Musicale Frentana that has continued since 1972 as an orchestral training course and instrumental and vocal seminar.
In his article on Phrasing in the November 1976 issue of The Horn Call, Ceccarossi outlines his interpretation of phrasing in Mozart and Strauss, and especially the impact of Gumpert and Kling on modern phrasing. He points to the violin as his inspiration and to his own recordings, writings, and compositions as evidence of how the horn can achieve a cantabile style with lightness, and virtuosity with coloristic possibilities, "through which one can achieve a concert level so many other wind instruments have attained."
Ceccarossi method book, École Compléte du Cor, comprises four volumes. He also composed Dix Caprices (intended to put the horn on the same level as the Caprices of Paganini; that is, arrive at that technical virtuosity) and edited many pieces in the horn repertoire in light of his standards of interpretation.
Ceccarossi was elected an IHS Honorary Member in 1982. An interview appears in the April 1972 issue of The Horn Call, and a tribute in the February 2000 issue.
Photo courtesy of Pete Exline.
James Chambers (1920-1989)
James Chambers was known for his magnificent orchestral playing, intense 45-minute lessons, strong views, and orchestra repertoire classes.
Chambers was born in Trenton NJ in 1920 into a musical family. His parents were amateur musicians, a grandfather was an organist and teacher, and one brother was a trumpet player and teacher. Chambers started playing horn at age ten, making his debut with the Trenton Symphony Orchestra at age 15. He attended the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, where he studied with Anton Horner (1938-1941). "I picked the horn because I felt there were fewer good horn players than there were good violinists and pianists. It was a pragmatic decision born out of hard economic times," he said in an interview. While at Curtis, Chambers obtained a new Conn 8D from a local music store, one of the first run of 8Ds. He played the same horn until he retired from horn playing.
Chambers played with the Pittsburg Symphony under Fritz Reiner for one year after his graduation in 1941, then became solo horn of the Philadelphia Orchestra (1942-1946), and finally was solo horn of the New York Philharmonic (1946-1969). After retiring from horn playing because of his health, Chambers continued to be orchestra manager (1969-1986). He also was a guest artist with other orchestras, including the Longines Symphonette Radio Orchestra, and at many music festivals. He played with such artists as Mitch Miller, John Barrows, Jimmy Buffington, Tony Miranda, Clark Terry, and Bernie Glow. He enjoyed commercial recordings and preferred playing fourth horn on them.
''He founded a style of horn playing based on a rich, dark sound and had a fearless approach,'' said Philip Myers, a successor as first horn in the New York Philharmonic. Conductor Leonard Bernstein said, "He played solo horn on all my early Mahler recordings - to say nothing of Beethoven, Brahms and the rest - and always magnificently.'' In fact, Chambers recorded Mahler's Fifth Symphony with Bruno Walter and Dimitri Mitropoulos as well as Bernstein.
Chambers taught at the Curtis Institute while he was a member of the Philadelphia Orchestra, then at the Juilliard School for 42 years, still on the faculty when he died. His orchestral repertory class for wind instruments became one of the most sought-after instrumental experiences at Juilliard for over a generation. Chambers often included selections from the Philharmonic programs in the class. "I have great enthusiasm over this class. It is very challenging simulating a conductor – differing the interpretations and pointing out the pitfalls."
Chambers said, "We only have one thing to sell on the horn: the unique and beautiful sound which is particularly the horn. Anything else we try to do there are countless other instruments that can do it more easily and more securely without the difficulties of the horn." He was adamant about not switching to the B-flat horn below the written C-sharp. "My usual advice is don't discard the F horn so easily. Use the B-flat horn as insurance. But even in what I consider basic F horn territory there are many exceptions. Technical problems or jumping in and out of a register may require you to play on the B-flat or to mix the two. What I am trying to express is flexibility. Try to have all the options at your disposal."
Students respected Chambers' teaching methodology and discipline. He presented material in a carefully thought-out order and packed much into his 45-minute lessons. He was demanding of students but prepared them thoroughly. He said, "Anyone can blow through a pipe," implying that only a few can make music doing so.
Chambers' publications include a series of orchestral excerpts books and numerous editions of etude and solo works. Composer William Schuman said Chambers was also a scholar who brought a researcher's discipline and a performer's insights to the literature of the horn.
Chambers was elected an IHS Honorary Member in 1979.
Philip F. Farkas (1914-1992)
Philip Francis Farkas was a legendary principal orchestra player, a leading teacher, author of a book known as the Bible for horn players, and a co-founder of the IHS.
Farkas was born in 1914 in Chicago. His parents were not musically inclined, but his mother thought piano lessons were important. At age twelve, Farkas joined the Boy Scouts. The troop needed a bugler, so Farkas volunteered and remained a bugler until age fourteen.
At about that time, Farkas started to show signs of asthma, and his parents thought that playing a wind instrument in the school band would help. Farkas selected the tuba. He took the streetcar to school until one day the streetcar conductor refused to let him on with the tuba. Farkas asked what instrument would be allowed, and the conductor pointed to a horn case. Farkas and his father went to Chicago and rented a Schmidt horn for $3 a month. Farkas loved it immediately, and at that point Farkas decided he wanted to become a professional horn player. The year was 1927.
Farkas' first horn teacher was Earl Stricker. In 1930, Farkas became a student at Calumet High School and played in the band and orchestra there, as well as in the All-Chicago High School Orchestra. He began studying privately with Louis Dufrasne, a great horn artist of the time, and playing with the Chicago Civic Orchestra.
Farkas began his career as first horn player in the newly formed Kansas City Philharmonic, not having finished high school, in 1933. In 1936, he became first horn in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the youngest member of the orchestra, until 1941. Then in succession, he played first horn with the Cleveland Orchestra (1941-1945), the Boston Symphony Orchestra (1945-1946), back to Cleveland (1946-1947), and finally back to Chicago (1948-1960).
During this time, Farkas taught horn privately and at the Kansas City Conservatory, Cleveland Institute, DePaul University, Roosevelt University, Northwestern University, and finally, after leaving the Chicago Symphony in 1960, at Indiana University. After so many years of orchestral playing, he said, "I would rather quit several years too soon than 10 minutes too late." During his time at Indiana, Farkas played and toured with the American Woodwind Quintet and during the summers played in the Aspen Festival Orchestra.
Farkas had a significant reputation as a teacher when he moved to Indiana University. A few years before, he had published The Art of French Horn Playing, which became known as the Bible for horn players and is a fixture in almost every horn player's library. His next major publication, The Art of Brass Playing, Farkas published himself and established Wind Music, Inc. to distribute it. Farkas believed that to be successful, horn players needed technique, musicianship, and the courage to play in public. He advocated knowing their weaknesses and working to make them strengths; i.e., "Take the problem and practice it to the extreme."
In addition to the many orchestral recordings in which Farkas can be heard, he made a few solo and chamber recordings and can be heard in advertising jingles and in Nat King Cole's Portrait of Jenny.
Among Farkas' other accomplishments was designing the Farkas Model horn and mouthpiece. He experimented his entire life with horn and mouthpiece design. In 1947 he and trumpeter Renold Schilke founded a business called Music Products, Inc. to produce and market mouthpieces. After beginning his collaboration with Holton and moving to Indiana University, he sold his share of the business to Schilke, and then helped design a collection of mouthpieces for Holton.
Farkas was a co-founder of the IHS, and in 1978, he was elected an IHS Honorary Member. He was awarded an honorary doctorate at Eastern Michigan University, also in 1978. After retiring from Indiana University in 1982, Farkas continued to perform and give clinics. The annual Philip Farkas Horn Competition started in 1992 at the Franz Liszt Academy in Budapest.
Books about Farkas:
Stewart, M. Dee, Philip Farkas: The Legacy of a Master, The Instrumentalist, Northfield IL, ©1990.
Fako, Nancy Jordan, Philip Farkas and His Horn: A Happy, Worthwhile Life, Crescent Park Music Publications, Elmhurst IL, ©1998.
Major publications by Farkas:
The Art of French Horn Playing: A Treatise on the Problems and Techniques of French Horn Playing. C. F. Summy, Chicago, ©1956.
The Art of Brass Playing: A Treatise on the Formation and Use of the Brass Player's Embouchure. Wind Music, Bloomington IN, ©1962.
A Photographic Study of 40 Virtuoso Horn Players' Embouchures. Wind Music, Bloomington IN, ©1970.
The Art of Musicianship: A Treatise on the Skills, Knowledge, and Sensitivity Needed by the Mature Musician to Perform in an Artistic and Professional Manner. Wind Music, Bloomington IN, ©1976.
"Reflections of a Longtime Musician." The Instrumentalist 42, no. 2 (September 1987): pp. 20-26.
Holger Fransman (1909-1997)
Holger Fransman is regarded as the father of the Finnish school of horn playing. He was the last pupil of Karl Steigler in Vienna. He joined the Helsinki Philharmonic as the third hornist in 1932, and was principal horn from 1937 until 1967. He was one of the most outstanding Finnish orchestral musicians, but perhaps even more influential as a teacher at the Sibelius Academy (1931-1973).
Fransman put horn playing in Finland on the map internationally. His legacy is preserved by at least four generations of pupils and the pupils of pupils. He was the first Finn to go abroad to study with international greats, in the 1930s. While studying in Vienna, he lived with Steigler's nephew, Gottfried von Freiberg, who succeeded Steigler as principal horn of the Vienna Philharmonic in 1932.
"There's no doubt that the Viennese ideals that Frani brought back with him are still maintained here," writes Markus Maskuniitty. "For instance, the fact that we play a good deal on the horn in F, whereas elsewhere in Europe they primarily use the B-flat horn. We go more for that dark, rounded sound and pay particular attention to the roundedness and softness of legato technique."
Esa-Pekka Salonen studied horn with Fransman, starting at age 11 and working up to the Oscar Franz Concert Études. He revered Fransman, hoping that one day he would be a great horn player, worthy of his teacher, and they remained close friends even after Salonen went on to become a conductor and composer. "When I was asked to write a piece for solo horn for the International Holger Fransman Memorial Competition (commissioned by the Lieksa Brass Week, Finland, July 2000)," writes Salonen, "I agreed right away. I decided to write my own Concert Étude, and thus create a little homage to my teacher, who in fact was like a grandfather to me. In this piece I treat the horn as a virtuoso instrument, capable of acrobatics as well as the idiomatic melodic expression. In a way, I wrote the piece for the great horn player I never became."
Another student was Olavi Vikman (1931-2006), a recipient of the IHS Punto Award in 2002.
Fransman wrote about the brass band tradition in Finland for Brass Bulletin and the Historic Brass Society Journal.
The Finnish Horn Club honored Holger Fransman with a "Maestro Del Corno" record that includes horn music arranged, conducted, and commissioned by Fransman. Fransman was the first Honorary Member of the Finnish Horn Club (1973). He was elected an IHS Honorary Member in 1978.
Alan Civil (1929-1989)
Alan Civil was larger than life, both as a horn player and as a personality. He was known for spectacular playing ("beautifully focused"), huge horn choir arrangements, and quick wit and bonhomie. He wasn't afraid to express his less-than-respectful opinions of conductors. He was perhaps most famous for his high obbligato solo on the Beatles song "For No One."
Alan was born in 1929 in Northampton, England to a family of brass instrument players. He started playing horn at age nine; on leaving school during wartime, he joined the Royal Artillery Band. During this time, showing the kind of initiative that characterized his career, he persuaded Aubrey Brain to give him lessons, which required a 120-mile round-trip journey. Later he traveled to Hamburg, Germany to study with Willy von Stemm.
After his military service, in 1953 Alan joined Dennis Brain in the Royal Philharmonic as second horn and took over as principal when Dennis moved to the Philharmonia. In 1955, Alan joined the Philharmonia on tour and then stayed on as co-principal to Dennis. When Dennis died in 1957, Alan took over as principal. In 1964, he was the first non-German to be approached by the Berlin Philharmonic, but he decided to stay with the Philharmonia, which was reorganizing as a self-governing entity. In 1966, he left to join the BBC Symphony Orchestra, where he stayed until retirement in 1988. During this time, he also became a professor at the Royal College of Music, played with several chamber ensembles (including the Alan Civil Trio), and toured as a soloist.
He played an Alexander double horn for orchestral work, an Alexander single B-flat horn for solos, and had a collection of natural horns for early music (a special interest).
Alan's compositions include a symphony for brass and percussion, a wind quintet and octet, a horn trio, a suite for two horns, and innumerable arrangements and transcriptions for horn ensembles (some now lost). Many horn players have thrilled to his transcription of Beethoven's Egmont Overture at horn workshops.
Alan recorded most of the major horn works, including three recordings of the Mozart concertos: Otto Klemperer and the Philharmonia Orchestra, Rudolf Kempe and Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, and Neville Marriner and the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields. The last recording, with a lighter orchestra and brighter tempos, shows off a variety of tone, attacks, and phrasing and Alan's own cadenzas. His recording of the Britten Serenade with tenor Robert Tear and the Northern Sinfonia is particularly well-regarded.
Known for his quick wit, Civil once metaphorically quipped that you "really have to be sitting on the edge of your seat for pretty well all your life, otherwise you won't be able to play the horn." He had many stories to tell, and was the subject of many more. He enjoyed good food and wine and pubs, radio dance bands and comedy shows. He often tried to dissuade students from making a career of the horn, telling them about the nitty-gritty of the profession.
Alan was a frequent artist at horn workshops. He served on the IHS Advisory Council (1974-81) and as first president of the British Horn Society from 1979. He was awarded an OBE in 1985 and elected an IHS Honorary Member in 1989.
Tributes to Alan appear in the October 1989 issue of The Horn Call and a retrospective in the April 1992 issue.