with albertIt is difficult to write a Horn Symposium report – one carries expectations of performances and exhibits, but there were the smells and the sights unrelated to Symposium (a goldplated Ferrari), and the unscheduled conversations at breakfast, in a hallway, or even, this year, at a pub. Getting to the Imperial College in London was difficult for many – the long walk through the Heathrow airport, the longer lines for Tube ticket, and then the hike from the South Kensington station to the site. Upon arrival, however, we found the facilities in close proximity. The Imperial College, the facility host Jonathan Stoneman chose for the Symposium is not a music school but a technical school, so the performance halls were large classrooms – Jonathan bought enough wire stands for an orchestra! While the venue may not have been ideal for a music convention, it was excellent for easy access to exhibits, a dining room, dormitories, and lecture halls.

The weather was cool, it rained a bit, and the dorm rooms were tiny but comfortable. Breakfasts were eaten in a large dining room with students and participants from several conferences – the food was the same every morning but there was a good variety and plenty to eat. IHS participants could buy a meal package or fend for themselves for lunch and dinner. With a little searching, one could find both expensive and very reasonable food in the area.

The Symposium opened on Monday morning August 11 with horn choirs from the Royal Academy of Music and the Royal Northern Academy performing both jointly and separately in an enjoyable concert. The first afternoon recital featured Andrew Pelletier and Richard Watkins playing only new works – all difficult but well performed. The New York Philharmonic horn section then played arrangements of US pop and show tunes (trombone arrangements transcribed for horns). Because that recital went long many of us missed the following interview and a presentation by John Cox (Oregon). At 4 p.m. the Bergen Philharmonic horn quintet performed arrangements of Norwegian music followed by the American Horn Quartet performing Turner’s Third Quartet and West Side Story arrangement. Ensemble competitions followed. The evening BBC Proms concert featured the BBC National Orchestra of Wales – many Symposium attendees attended that concert standing with many joining the hundreds standing in front of the orchestra for £5!

Each morning began with a warm-up and advice on testing horns from a different clinician – Tuesday it was Eli Epstein. Simultaneous lecturers on the Alexander Technique by Kerin Black and Technology in Performance and Teaching by Lydia van Dreel were presented at 10 am. The 11 am performance by the Japan Horn Society, Horn Pure (Thailand), and Mallet Horn Jazz Band was moved to a smaller lecture room, so many stood in the back and side aisles. For many, the highlight of three fine performances was Horn Pure, an eight-member group of young hornists from Thailand who performed difficult repertoire with precision, accuracy, and a sense that they were having fun. Nick Smith presented a lecture concerning the European influence of American horn sections at noon, which was overlapped by the 11 am performance. Simultaneously, Ian O’Brien spoke on hearing damage to horn players. The 1 p.m. performance began with two solo pieces performed by Dylan Hart (LA), followed by Brazilian Radegundis Travares performing works with piano from his country’s composers. That “hour” concluded with a spectacular performance by the Budapest Festival Horn Quartet – a major highlight in this reviewer’s opinion. At 3 p.m. one could choose from a Spanish Brass master class on quintet playing or a lecture on the influence of Louis Dufrasne on the US by Jeroen Billiet. At the 4 p.m. hour we heard three works for horn and chamber orchestra conducted by Michael Thompson – Alec Frank-Gemmill beautifully rendered Butterworth’s Romanza, Ab Kostser performed a flawless Mozart Concerto No. 2, and Frank Lloyd concluded with a brilliant performance of Gordon Jacob’s Concerto. Unfortunately, Zdenek Divoky was ill and could not perform. Following that recital Jeff Nelsen presented his lecture on Fearlessness. The evening BBC proms concert was again the BBC National Orchestra of Wales performing the music of Peter Maxwell Davies, Walton, and Sibelius.

Wednesday opened with another warm-up with Ilene Chanon, followed by a lecture on the Viennese Sound Concept with Gergely Sugar, against another Alexander Technique session with Black. Because Zdenek Divoky was ill, the Czech-American Duo with Steven Gross was not able to perform on the 11 am concert but the South Queensland horn ensemble stepped in with a contemporary work followed by the American Horn Quartet’s rendition of Tippett’s Sonata. At noon there were three simultaneous lectures by Engelbert Schmid (acoustics and craftsmanship), Tiffany Damicone (Bohemian Singing Sound), and Vincent Andrieux (French horn players from 1899- 1929). The 1 p.m. recital featured the two excellent Hawkins Competition winners, Ana Beatriz Menezes and László Gál. A Japan Horn Ensemble then played Eric Ewazen’s Bridge of Dreams (with the composer present), followed by the Jim Rattigan Trio (horn, violin, piano) performing works from his latest jazz CD. There were two events at 2 p.m. and if you didn’t make it into Sarah Willis’s Horn Hangout with Terry Johns by 2 p.m. it was streamed without you. Randy Gardner reminded us of our practice fundamentals at 3 p.m. The 4 p.m. recital was again spectacular featuring the Spanish Brass who performed a plethora of music from all sorts of genres over 45 minutes from memory, and Trompas Lusas, who belted out an amazing assortment of quartets. At 7:30 p.m. a one-man, one-act play inspired by Jasper Rees’s book was performed. The sole actor, Jonathan Guy-Lewis, did an outstanding job with all sorts of “in” horn humor and actually performed the second and third movements of Mozart’s Concerto, K. 447 as Rees may have, improving as he went along. It was an outstanding and moving performance.

Thursday began with either a guided warm-up with Martin Lawrence or a lecture by Randall Faust on the history of the IHS Composition Contest. At 10 a.m. John Humphries lectured on 19th-century horn players in London against another Alexander Technique presentation by Black. The 11 a.m. performance was unfortunately moved to a venue that could not seat the crowd. Here a group of trompes-de-chasse led by British Horn Society President Chris Larkin performed works by the Dampiere and Kling. Ensemble Mengal from Belgium then performed octets for six natural horns and two trombones by Mengal to stirring applause. Natural horn virtuoso Anneke Scott played last due to the fact that her train had been delayed that morning. She did not disappoint with a flawless performance of variations on a Donizetti melody for horn and piano. When she discovered the last page missing from her stand, she turned and read from the piano part – those of us close enough were treated to an exotic hand display in her bell. The noon hour included another presentation by Eli Epstein about “finger breathing” opposite one in a series of interviews during the week by Tony Catterick. Unfortunately Anthony Halstead was not able to attend due to illness. At 1 p.m. we heard horn duets with Anneke Scott and Joseph Walters, the group of British players again, this time on Vienna horns, performing works by Weber. Jean-Pierre Dassonville performed an Intermezzo by Dupont on a six-piston-valve instrument made by Adolphe Sax – impressive! Likewise was the performance of Gallay’s Quartet for four horns in four keys led by Anneke Scott – brilliant! At 2 p.m. there was a lecture by Jeffrey Snedeker on the nineteenth-century Paris Conservatoire followed at 3 p.m. by either a master class with Anneke Scott or a panel led by Daren Robbins on alternative careers in music. The 4 p.m. performance began with Jeffrey Snedeker playing Weber’s Concertino on natural horn followed by the Ensemble Mengal, this time performing on piston-valved instruments the music of Ryeland and Dubios – very impressive. 5 p.m. was a light-hearted duet presentation by Sarah Willis and Klaus Wallendorf of the Berlin Philharmonic advertising their new CD. The British Horn Society held their annual general meeting between the duet presentation and the 7 p.m. orchestra concert. This concert began with Ligeti’s seldom heard Hamburg Concerto performed by Andrew Pelletier, followed by Richard Watkins in a performance of Colin Mathews’ concerto. The final work on the program was a rousing rendition of Schumann’s Konzertstück with the New York Philharmonic horn section. The Proms concert that evening included works by Sibelius, P. M. Davies, and Bridge, performed by the BBC Philharmonic.

Friday’s warm-up hornist was Tim Thorpe of the BBC Wales Orchestra, followed with simultaneous lectures by Peter Kurau (Transference Learning) and Kerin Black (Alexander Technique). The 11 a.m. recital feature Bernardo Silva, Rose French, and the Budapest Festival Horn Quartet. The quartet performed the Schneider and Hübler Concerti for four horns. At noon a quartet from the Berlin Philharmonic performed light-hearted quartets mostly arranged by Wallendorf, to the enjoyment of the audience. That concert began and ended late so the picnic at the Albert Memorial in Kensington Park, about ten minutes walk from the Imperial College, also began late. There was a quickly assembled performance of the Liberty Bell March for soloists and massed horn choir (music clipped on the lanyards for the person behind to read). Due to dark clouds and a bit of rain, the concert was called after about 10 minutes. While the participants ate a sack lunch, Horn Pure from Thailand and two quartets performed, one from South Texas that had won the quartet competition. The Symposium ended with Tim Thorpe performing with piano, the South Queensland horn choir, and then the Budapest and American Quartets joining for two Kerry Turner works, ending with Bronze Triptych by Turner for 12 horns and percussion. The IHS general meeting ensued followed by the BBC Scottish Symphony at the Proms, ending the day with a rousing Ein Heldenleben.

Thanks to Jonathan Stoneman for a superb week, well-planned, and well-executed. For he’s a jolly good fellow!