Bach Cello Suites

I’ve enjoyed listening to many interpretations of the Bach Cello Suites over the years, recordings by performers such as: Janos Starker, Mstislav Rostropovich, Yo Yo Ma and Pablo Casals. And now the first-ever recording of a horn player playing the Cello Suites has recently  been released by Daniel Katzen, and it is wonderful!!

He plays the Suites in the original key, exhibiting not only great musicianship, but an enviably rich low register—perhaps the result of playing 2nd horn with the Boston Symphony for 3 decades!

This recording should be in the library of every horn player—its value far exceeds the modest price tag. His beautiful sound, expressive interpretation and fluid technique are inspirational!

In addition to recording the Cello Suites, Dan Katzen has also published his own edition in the original keys, available for purchase at the same site. You can order the CD and music at the following link: http://www.cfa.arizona.edu/horn/dkmusic.biz.html



Ever felt like you wished you’d practiced more this week? Wish you had made it a priority. . .before now? Don’t be discouraged, you have today! Practicing is like exercise. . .feels so good when you have it done! It is not only exercise for our chops, but good for the soul and an investment in future artistic expression. So go for it! When you sit down to practice, set a goal. . .a passage, or technique to work on and improve it before you get up. Little steps with big results. Go to it. . .

Brass player’s fun

Here’s some brass playing that will give you a little chuckle and maybe some inspiration, too! Start it around 3:30, for an expedited version and enjoy!

Placing the first note of a phrase can be intimidating, even frightful in some cases.  We must play accurately. . .we think, “don’t chip the first note!!!”  This way of thinking can get us into more trouble and make the task of playing beautifully more challenging than ever.  We don’t want to stumble into the beginning of a solo, or any music, for that matter.  A jewel of a first note is what we are going for. . .a clean beginning, a resonant sound and a phrase with direction.

How can we play a beautiful phrase beginning with the very first note?  Preparation is the key.  Prepare the mind to begin.  What is my tempo?  What kind of sound I am going to make?  A common error is to believe that the tongue begins the note.  The tongue simply defines the beginning of the note, it is the air that begins the note.

Consider the following process: breathe in time, stay relaxed and then enter the note with 95% air and 5% tongue.  Air is the substance of our sound, don’t let the tongue be boss!  Learn to trust the air.  Next, where is the phrase going?   The first note is simply the stem which leads to the gorgeous flower, it’s not the main event.  Move through the first note into the following beautifully-shaped phrase.  Approach the beginning of the phrase musically, rather than technically.

Air is the substance of sound. No air, no sound.  Weak air, weak sound. Explosive air, explosive sound. Get the picture? 🙂 Use the tongue to define the air in motion, not as a substitute for the air.  Practice the following exercise to build trust in your airstream: walk around the room with the horn in your hands, then stop and immediately play a note without tonguing it—go for a beautiful sound.  Walk a few more steps, stop and play it again.  This relaxed approach to starting a note will normalize note entrances.  Relax, breathe and blow. Learn to trust the air and go from there!  Have a nice walk!

A visit with Karl Hill

Not too long ago I went to visit Karl Hill, who makes Kortesmaki horns.

His workshop, as always, is exquisitely organized with visible evidence of the current horn creation underway. Karl tells me, “yeah, this is Paul’s bell over here”, referring to the long straight horn bell for the triple horn that is underway for a horn player he has known for many years.  Each horn Karl builds was ordered 3+ years ago and represents a horn player that is waiting with great anticipation for the day they will hold and make music on their very own, hand made Kortesmaki. His shop is filled with a hopeful, creative energy spurred on by appreciation and fueled by life-long humility born out of quest for excellence. Hope hangs in the air. . .the hope of a horn that will serve someone’s musical endeavor’s for a lifetime.  Appreciation and honor is exhibited on the wall board, in full view from the workbench, which is filled with photos and letters of gratitude and appreciation for Karl’s work by renowned horn performers such as Hermann Baumann, Gail Williams, Karl Pituch, and Dave Krebiel.  Karl is a gift to those of us who know him because in addition to putting heart and soul into his craft producing amazing horns, he is a heartfelt colleague and friend!  Thank you, Karl!

Check out this newly published book on the life of Dennis Brain. It has details about his professional life, recollections of him as a person and inspirational commentary on him as a horn player/musician. I received it in the mail this week and have had a hard time putting it down!  I’m reminded of the dignified and humble manner with which many accomplished musicians of his era (mid-20th century) handled themselves. No grandstanding, no self-promoting, no self-inflated pride, but simply a love for music, dedication to developing/maintaining technique and the offering of beauty to listeners around the world. Simply refreshing. . .and inspiring!  Here’s to more beauty and grace. . .

Christmas Party 2010

It was great fun to have you all here this evening. I continue to be amazed at your expertise and natural abilities in Catch Phrase and Charades! Thanks for the laughs and for not leaving me with too much food to eat up. 🙂

I’m looking forward to hearing your jury performances on Tuesday—practice hard, get lots of rest and break a leg!  Then have a wonderful Christmas!!