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Hyperion Records

CDH55074 - Czerny: Music for horn and fortepiano
Still Life with Hunting Horn (1827) by Jean-Georges Hirn (1777-1839)

Recording details: July 1999
St Michael's Church, Highgate, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Mark Brown
Engineered by Tony Faulkner
Release date: June 2000
Total duration: 79 minutes 5 seconds

‘A tour de force for horn and piano … presents natural hornist Andrew Clark and fortepianist Geoffrey Govier as virtuosi of the first rank … A very enjoyable disk, full of joie de vivre and technical pyrotechnics as well as some beautiful Schubert melodies' (Historic Brass Society Newsletter, USA)

'I put the disc on and was immediately intrigued and delighted' (Early Music Review)

'Horn players will no doubt find much to interest and entertain them here' (International Record Review)

'Played with real style and verve by Andrew Clark and Geoffrey Govier' (BBC CD Review)

Music for horn and fortepiano
Adagio  [2'58]
Der Wanderer  [2'20]
Erlkönig  [1'56]
Das Ständchen  [3'34]
Wohin?  [1'37]
Das Wandern  [1'32]
Trauerwalzer  [3'20]
Der Einsame  [1'41]
Fischerweise  [2'51]
Ungeduld  [4'54]
Fülle der Liebe  [2'01]
Gute Nacht  [1'17]
Die Forelle  [2'47]
Andante  [3'12]
How convenient it would be if we could make history fit into neat little compartments! Music could be divided into the pre-Baroque, Baroque, Classical, Romantic and Modern. The piano would have ancestors in the harpsichord and fortepiano, and the horn would exist either without valves before the 1820s or with them thereafter. Unfortunately things are not as simple as that. There are composers whose music cannot easily be categorised, instruments which vary widely from their conventional forms, and a diversity of techniques required to play them.

The works on this CD illustrate several of these points, particularly with regard to the history of the horn and techniques of playing it. The Introduction et Variations concertantes sur une tirolienne, written for valved horn circa 1830, demonstrates Czerny’s knowledge of valve technology, but subsequently he composed for the natural (valveless) horn (see ‘The Instruments’ below) in the Brillante Fantasien (c1836) and the Andante e Polacca (1848). We do not know of any specific reason why he seemed to turn his back on the new development of valves, but we can learn some of his thoughts and feelings about the use of the horn from his School of Practical Composition, Op 600, first published in 1839. In the English edition of 1846 there are several points in the main section on the use of the natural horn, but he refers to brass instruments with valves only in the appendix where he gives an outline of the saxhorn family (a new invention of Adolphe Sax—the inventor of the saxophone). This is how he perceived the duet combining piano and horn, a popular form of nineteenth-century salon music:

The wind instruments most generally combined with the Pianoforte … are the Flute and the Horn … The Horn … is especially adapted for calm sustained notes, for tender or melancholy ideas, or for an expression of energy and grandeur … Beethoven, Ries, Hummel and many modern writers have produced distinguished examples.

Regarding the use of the hand-stopped notes on the natural horn he informs the reader:

In modern times, the Horn has been so greatly improved that the artificial notes sound as well and as firm as the natural ones.

He adds that the bass notes ‘are used only slowly and piano’, but fails to follow this advice several times in these works! In general he advises:

A harmonious, pleasing and melodious composition has nearly always the good fortune of being immediately liked, but an artful, profound, or unusually original one, naturally requires a longer time for this purpose. Where, however, all these properties are combined, we may expect both a ready and long continued acknowledgment … The innate and natural endeavour of every composer is, unquestionably, to please the world, to be acknowledged by it, and to enjoy all the advantages arising therefrom.

Czerny’s own compositional style, especially in these works, makes use of catchy melodies with virtuosic developments of them incorporating what his contemporary John Field (1782–1837) described (somewhat enviously perhaps) as:

… models of passages, turns and cadenzas which were carefully filed in the pigeon-holes of a cupboard for further use whenever the need arose for a suitable chunk of music.

The result here is a well-constructed popular type of salon music which exudes wit and charm and exploits the natural virtuosic potential of the instruments. (One might add that the piano cadenza in the third Brillante Fantasie is so exuberant and dynamic that it would be difficult to contain it in any cupboard, especially if the cupboard were already bursting with the horn fanfares and cadenzas.)

Through the use of popular and well-loved melodies by Schubert in the Drei Brillante Fantasien, Czerny already satisfies several of his criteria for having his music liked, at the same time as paying tribute to one of Vienna’s most talented composers. All the melodies quoted would have been recognised in the 1830s, having been published in the previous decade (unlike many of Schubert’s songs and other works which waited several years after his death before being re-evaluated and put into print). While today we might consider such extensive ‘borrowing’ of another composer’s material to be unimaginative or plagiaristic, at that time it was held as a compliment and could serve to publicise a fellow composer’s work. Since the tone of good horn-players was often compared to that of the human voice, perhaps it is appropriate that the horn and piano combination is used here, especially if we draw a parallel with the different vowel sounds of the lyrics and the tonal variations achieved by the gradations of hand-stopping the bell of the natural horn.

Schubert’s themes are labelled in the score. The very first theme in the first Fantasy is worth a particular mention for the way the horn writing reflects the meaning of the song’s words. These describe the travels of ‘Der Wanderer’ who has come from the mountain range (‘Ich komme vom Gebirge her’). The first five notes being hand-stopped on a natural horn sound somewhat muted—as if they come from afar. Then, as the phrase develops, the sounds become open and present to show that he has arrived. This is an example of a composer exploiting the use of stopped and open notes to produce a musical image of the words of a song. An atmosphere is created by Czerny’s intelligent orchestration which he could easily have lost had he scored it for horn in D instead of F. This would have made the whole phrase sound quite open. On a modern horn all the notes would sound open as there are no instructions to hand-stop: they are taken for granted on the natural horn as that is the only way to produce those notes. Later in the same Fantasy we hear Schubert’s Trauerwalzer theme cleverly scored so that twenty out of twenty-two notes are stopped to produce a dark tone colour which matches the meaning (‘Trauer’ means ‘mourning’ or ‘bereavement’). Therefore an important aspect of the music is rediscovered when we hear it performed on appropriate historical instruments, such as those used on this recording.

The Introduction et Variations concertantes is one of the first works ever written for the solo valved horn and piano. Authorship is credited to Czerny and Joseph Lewy, the latter being a horn virtuoso and pioneer of the newly invented valved instrument. The horn part contains several notes and key changes which would be unplayable on the natural horn, even with the advanced technique of hand-stopping the bell of the instrument with the right hand, prevalent at this time in Europe.

The Tyrolean theme has the air of an Alpine song about it, but could easily have been invented by Lewy or Czerny. While the variations have all the hallmarks of Czerny’s virtuosic style he would not have been as bold with the choice of notes, keys and modulations for the horn had he not had guidance from a keen advocate of the fully chromatic horn.

Interpreting this horn part gives rise to a unique set of technical challenges when faced with the evidence of how nineteenth-century horn players approached the new development of full chromatic availability on their instrument. Lewy’s legacy includes a set of twelve challenging études from 1850 with the following instructions:

These studies are to be played chromatically on the F horn. The valves should only be used when the natural horn is inadequate for the bright and distinct emission of the sound … Only in this way will the beautiful tone of the natural horn be preserved while, at the same time, retaining the advantage of the valve horn.

Berlioz wrote in 1843 in the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik that:

It is foolishness to think that the effect of stopped notes, which are sometimes quite characteristic and required by the composer’s idea, should be lost on the valved horn, as one can produce these notes by inserting the hand into the bell just as well on the valved horn as on the ordinary natural horn.

In the same year Berlioz commented on Lewy’s playing of the valved horn in Dresden:

The most remarkable of the horn players is Lewy, who enjoys quite a reputation in Saxony. He and his colleagues use the cylinder horn …

So the question is: how much should the player use a hand-stopping technique when the valves offer a chromatic range? The answer comes partly from Lewy’s instructions for his études and partly from the Méthode pour le Cor Chromatique ou à Pistons by Joseph Meifred published in Paris in 1840. We know from Berlioz’s Mémoires that he was acquainted with Meifred as well as with Lewy. The latter had studied horn with his elder brother Eduard Constantin, who had studied in Paris with Domnich between 1810 and 1813, so they would have been familiar with the French school of hand-horn technique. Meifred was playing the valved horn from 1828 and was appointed to the Paris Conservatoire staff in 1833. There is a connection via Berlioz between Meifred and Lewy: they both began giving valved-horn concerts in the same year and they both expected hand-stopping to be used in conjunction with the valves. Therefore I have used guidance from the Meifred Méthode to help interpret the Introduction et Variations concertantes.

In 1829, with the assistance of Paris Conservatoire horn professor Louis-François (1781–1868), Meifred published a precursor to the 1840 Méthode, so his ideology would have been made public prior to the composition of this work. The author’s five goals stated here are: (1) to restore to the horn the notes it lacks; (2) to restore accuracy (of intonation) to some notes; (3) to render muted notes sonorous, while preserving the desirable timbre of lightly stopped ones; (4) to give the leading note in every key or mode the ‘countenance’ it has in the natural range, and (5) not to deprive composers of changes of crook, each of which has a special colour.

These are the guidelines I have used in deciding how to perform this work. It entailed treating the horn part as if it had crook changes marked so as to imbue the different leading notes with the desired ‘countenance’. Since this requires an unusual degree of sensitivity to the modulations and harmony changes, one can see why this technique lacked a universal appeal, especially for more complex works written after this tutor had been published. Nevertheless, Berlioz’s words seem quite justified regarding the composer’s requirement that certain notes should be characteristically stopped, and this seems to be the rationale behind the approach suggested by the publications of Lewy and Meifred. This is the first time that such a combination of the use of valves and a transposable hand-stopping technique has been used on a solo horn and piano recording. Interestingly, the horn part in Schubert’s song Auf dem Strom (1828) was written for Lewy and seems to require a similar approach.

The Andante e Polacca is the only piece for horn and piano by Czerny not published in his lifetime. This suggests that it may have been written for a special occasion. Like Mendelssohn, Brahms and other composers, Czerny continued to compose for the natural horn after the valved horn became prevalent throughout much of Europe. As John Humphreys suggests, Czerny may have been inspired by a visit to Vienna from French virtuoso natural horn-player, Eugène Vivier, for whom Rossini wrote his Prelude, Theme and Variations. As in the finale of the Introduction, Theme and Concert Variations, Czerny was perhaps influenced by one of the several other polaccas composed earlier in the century for the horn. The most famous of these is the last movement of Weber’s Concertino, which similarly exploits the highest and lowest notes of the instrument. The solo horn in both of these works revels in the innate joie de vivre of fanfares, flourishes and arpeggios derived from the harmonic series while Czerny’s piano part glitters in cascades of notes that rival Chopin’s compositions and leave no avenue of the instrument unexplored.

Carl Czerny (1791–1857)
Carl Czerny’s reputation has rested mostly on his fame as a composer of pedagogical piano works and the teacher of several important nineteenth-century pianist-composers, including Liszt. Having studied with Beethoven and observed Clementi closely, he provides an important link between the Classical and Romantic groups of composers.

He was a child prodigy, playing the piano at three years of age, composing at seven, and by ten, in his words ‘was able to play clearly and fluently nearly everything by Mozart, Clementi, and the piano composers of the time’. His lessons with Beethoven from 1800 to 1803 introduced him to much of Beethoven’s own music and they remained in close contact. Czerny played the piano part in Beethoven’s Quintet for piano and winds in 1804, and in the ‘Emperor’ Concerto in the first Viennese performance in 1812.

At the age of fifteen, Czerny decided that the life of a concert pianist was not for him and became a teacher instead. He quickly acquired a strong reputation, often teaching from eight until eight each day, and then composing in the evenings. He spent almost all of his life dedicated to the piano and music, never marrying, and replacing his lack of close relatives with cats. There were always between seven and nine of them in his house and he regularly had to seek new homes for their offspring.

His output as a composer includes works in nearly every form, from concertos, chamber music and masses, to solos, symphonies and studies, numbering over one thousand published compositions and many more still in manuscript.

Andrew Clark © 2000

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