by Pete Exline

I surveyed European horn players for their playing styles, equipment, and embouchure as a project during a sabbatical leave in 1964-65 from what is now known as Eastern Washington University. The focus of the study was to be the national characteristics of horn playing in certain European countries. I had thought about this project for several years and had sounded out various people concerning their opinions of the justification of such an undertaking.

The music department chairman was positive, but the president of the college, who was not musically inclined, was not sure about it. He asked me to supply letters of support from recognized authorities. I had talked to Philip Farkas for his opinion at Aspen. He thought it was great, suggested some ideas, and wrote a letter of support to the president. Bob Elworthy and Max Pottag also wrote supporting letters.

The Royal Philharmonic had been on tour in Seattle and I went to the concert. I searched out Jim Brown, the first horn, and talked to him briefly about my idea. He seemed interested and thought it a promising approach. Luckily, when I got back to my hotel, I discovered that the orchestra was staying in the same hotel. Most of the orchestra had migrated to the bar, and there I had a long discussion with Jim Brown along with a few drinks and a most enjoyable evening. Because of the orchestra’s European travel, Jim knew a lot of the players, and those who could speak English, and he was a great help in my setting up a plan.

pxlin in van
Wendell L. "Pete" Exline in his VW van, 1965

My mission was approved, and in June of 1964 I flew from Spokane to Frankfurt and took delivery of a Volkswagen Camper I had ordered, and then I began my odyssey of the horn world with the first stop in Florence, Italy where I planned to take a course in Italian.

Summer concerts were taking place in the courtyard of the Pitti Palace, and it was there that I met Giuseppe Bianchini, the first horn. He spoke quite good English and played in Shanghai in the 1930s, and when Paul Meng wrote his articles in The Horn Call about Chinese horn history, I found that Bianchini was one of his teachers.

The routine was as follows. First, I had chosen five excerpts that I felt might represent the areas I wanted to investigate. They were the Tchaikovsky 5th, the Brahms Symphony No. 1, the Rossini Overture to the Barber of Seville, the Strauss Till Eulenspiegel, and the Ravel Pavane for a Dead Princess.

Second, I used my Rolleiflex camera to photograph each player from various angles including hand positions, embouchure with a mouthpiece ring, and the equipment. Traugott Rohner had included a symposium on brass mouthpieces in a 1952 issue of The Instrumentalist. He had devised a system of measuring cup mouthpieces, and that is what I used in measuring the horn mouthpieces of the participants.

Third was an information form for gathering information on each player. Some of the completed forms don’t have much information!

The tape recordings were made on a Uher 4000 Report S. This was a top quality portable tape recorder available at the time. A friend of mine got me one for a good price in a post exchange at Wiesbaden. It is a four speed machine with the lowest speed of 15/16th IPS, satisfactory for speech, and the 7 1/2 IPS for music. The recording of excerpts wouldn’t take more than a few minutes and then there was plenty of time left on the small tape for conversation.

To return to the first session in Florence with Bianchini, the tape was recorded in his home, and that being an Italian family there is lots of extraneous noise on the tape from babies crying and Vespas roaring down the street below. It was certainly not a good place to record. This session took place July 7, 1964.

From Florence I went north to London, but I did not do the London players at that time. From London I went up to Edinburgh to the festival and attended a performance by the Prague National Opera where I was able to snag the first horn before he left the pit at the end. I found in this project that horn players seem to get out of the pit early! The first horn was Josef Bartl. He spoke no English and he was not on my first list to include. However, I got him to understand that I planned to be in Prague in about three weeks and would like to record him for the project.

As it happened my VW camper was parked in front of a Czechoslovakian restaurant in Edinburgh, and as I was getting into it I notice several of the orchestra musicians walking down the street. They were interested in seeing my camper. It seemed that they were keeping their instruments upstairs over the restaurant. I suggested that we have a beer. They were hesitant as they had no money! This of course was in the old communist regime. I told them I would buy! They all lighted up and we went in. We were told that we could not be served beer unless food was purchased. I looked over the menu and found that the cheapest thing on the menu was minestrone (in a Czech restaurant?). I ordered a bowl and a beer for each of us.

A clarinetist spoke good English, and a percussionist who spoke a little, and a string player spoke none. We had a good time and I finally got the recorder out and put it on the table, but I have no idea where that tape is. I had explained to them that I intended to be in Prague in a few weeks. As I had been paying for the party in the restaurant, they told me that when I came to Prague, I would pay for nothing! That turned out to be true, and I had wonderful entertainment when I got to Prague.

I had ascertained from the party that Bartl, the hornist, was not very well liked and I think it was a political situation with the communists. Nevertheless I contacted him in Prague and made arrangements for the recording and interview. We met and went to the orchestra room in the basement of the Tyl Theater, the one where Mozart’s Don Giovanni was first performed. People were smaller then and the ceiling in the orchestra room was quite low. The recording session was a failure. For some reason, the tape I used was a bit too thick for the recording and caused serious interference with the speed. We tried several times to do it and nothing worked. I did not have another tape to use. For all of the small reels I used tape that I had wound from 7 1/2 inch reels. In some way the thick tape had got into the group. I was returning from Prague to Munich where the recorder was made and got it repaired, but the Prague session was impossible to be repeated. I did get the pictures and some information. As Bartl seemed to speak no English, we had to get along in German. The session took place on September 12, 1964.

From Munich I went to Salzburg for the meeting of the International Musicological Society. As the Vienna Philharmonic was there for the festival, I was able to contact Roland Berger to make arrangements to see him when I got to Vienna. It was on September 29 that I went to his apartment where he was babysitting while his wife was in the ballet for a performance of Verdi’s Masked Ball in the Opera. The tape background here includes their baby crying! It was late and after several beers that we did the recording. I left for Trieste early the next morning and while getting the Berger stuff typed up, I played the recording and found that he had played the Ravel in F and not in G, as written. He had never played the Ravel before. I guess the beers didn’t let me catch that one.

pxlin typing
Wintering in Sicily

No interviews came until the following spring. I left Vienna and toured in the Balkans and down to Greece and Turkey before going to Rome and then down to Sicily where I spent the winter in Taormina working on notes for the undergraduate survey music history course that I taught.

The next horn interview was in Rome with Domenico Ceccarossi on March 10, 1965. I went to his apartment. He was very friendly. He spoke little English, but we did do the recording. He wanted me to come again when his son, who worked for Alitalia, could be there and act as an interpreter. I went again on March 14. Another tape contained mostly conversation. The son really didn’t help very much. I had purchased his books at Ricordi. They didn’t have his recordings and he gave me a note to give to the Ricordi man in Milano to give me a discount on his records. I enjoyed the time spent with Ceccarossi.

From Italy I headed back north and to London once again. I had written to Barry Tuckwell and he was expecting me when I called on April 15, 1965. He came and picked me up and took me to his apartment. We did the interview and the recording there. We had lunch with his first wife and child. Because I had a full-length heavy duty roof rack on my VW camper, he asked if I could go with him to a framing shop where he had a Tanka (a Tibetan religious painting) framed, and we could take it home on top of the bus. It was quite heavy, but we did get it delivered. He had bought it in India from some Tibetans who had brought it in as refugees from China. The photos I took of Barry then look quite different than the Barry of today!

The following day (April 16th) I went to Jim Brown’s house. It was like old times having seen him in Vancouver when he was on tour with the Royal Philharmonic. We had a nice dinner and after the dinner we finally did the recording. I think the after-dinner drinks affected the recording somewhat. It was late that night that I drove back home into London. Jim Brown never got the fame that Barry and Civil did, but I think he was their equal.

I went to Alan Civil’s home on April 25th. Shirley doesn’t remember it, but I was there and took pictures of their kids. Alan played the excerpts and we drank ample beer during the evening. That may be the reason that the notes I have on him are very sparse!

I spent the afternoon of April 30th with Reginald Morley-Pegge. It was a delightful time. He showed me his collection of horns, which he had in a shed back of the house. Barry had suggested that I talk to him, and I’m very glad that I did. Peg played in France and was of the French school. He did not attempt to play the excerpts for me.

I left London shortly after and went to Amsterdam by train where I had arranged to meet Adriaan van Woudenberg, a first horn with the Concertgebouw Orchestra. We did the recording on the stage of the Concertgebouw on May 2nd. It felt strange to be on the stage alone where I had heard the orchestra in previous European trips.

pxlin in athens
with friends met on the road, in an Athens tavern

Bob Elworthy had given me a letter of introduction to Adriaan, so there was a personal connection. I arranged to leave my camper parked in front of Adriaan’s house and then went to Moscow by train, where I hoped to record Valerie Polekh. My hopes were dashed when Soviet Customs would not let me take the recorder in. They said I had to have a letter from the Ministry of Culture to bring it. Of course, there was no time for me to get such a letter, and I left the machine with them. They said I could pick it up when I returned. I was not going to be returning to that point, but would be going back up north and west from Leningrad (that was what it was called then). They said they would send it up there.

I went on to Moscow and Intourist contacted Polekh who came to my hotel on May 10 where we met the interpreter I had arranged for, and we proceeded to do the interview in my hotel room. The interpreter was a nice looking young lady who happened to be a pianist but knew nothing about the horn. Polekh and I resorted to German and got along fine. I did get the photos, but, of course there was no recording. He did give me an autographed recording of the Gliere Concerto. As you know, Gliere had written it for him. And so that meeting was somewhat disappointing. I had hoped to meet the first horn in Leningrad, but my visa time was limited and I just couldn’t arrange for it. I did get the recorder back, but that is another story.

None of the Scandinavians were on my list, and I returned to Amsterdam via Helsinki, Stockholm, and Copenhagen. On my return to Amsterdam I arrived the day of Adriaan’s daughter’s birthday. I had known that, and so I stopped at a bakery and bought some chocolates to take to the party.

From Amsterdam I drove to Wiesbaden for a week before going north to Cologne where I had arranged to meet Erich Penzel. We met at the West Deutches Rundfunk where he was employed. He was temporarily not playing as he was suffering from some sort of jaw problem, which was quite painful. He spoke good English.

Next was Heinrich Keller in Hamburg, and on June 6th I spent the afternoon in his home where we did the interview. His English was very limited, but we succeeded with my limited German. His family was very friendly and I was invited to stay for dinner. I have good notes on him.

I was in Munich on June 12th to interview Kurt Richter, who was first horn in the Bavarian State Radio. Richter seemed to be a bit irritated about the situation. Of all of the people I met he was the only one who wasn’t overly friendly and cooperative. His playing was not the greatest. Maybe it was just a bad day.

The final interview was on July 20, 1965 in Paris. I had written to Lucien Thevet previously, and when I called the home I happened to get his daughter, who spoke fluent English. She asked me to call back after she had talked with her dad about a meeting time for us. An so I went to Alphonse-Leduc and bought his Methode in two volumes and met him at American Express, holding the books in front of me so he could recognize me. We went across the street to what is now the old L’Opera and went to a room upstairs. It was a very live room and I was worried about the recording. He spoke little English and I had to make do with my limited French. I had especially wanted to record him as he used the vibrato in the old French and Bohemian style, and was playing on a Selmer Ascendant valve system.