May 17, 2020
Version for french horn and cello commissioned by Michael Buckwalter
Version for french horn and piano commissioned by Lisa Ford
From “Maytudes” – a french horn etude project in consultation with Gail Williams, with one etude created every day during the month of May, 2020
from composer Jim Stephenson (from original Maytudes etude book):
Today is a date that many horn players might recognize. I didn’t know the significance of it until friend and participant, Michael Buckwalter alerted me to it – the birth date of Dennis Brain.
Dennis Brain is, of course, one of the most famous horn soloists, whose recordings of Mozart’s concertos recordings and other works inspired many horn players, and many composers. He would have been 99 today.
After doing a little more listening and research, I discovered that on Brain’s gravestone is printed the following:
My call transforms
The hall to autumn-tinted groves
What is into what
This phrase comes from the Declamation section of the horn concerto composed for him by Paul Hindemith. I have borrowed those phrases and have inserted them into this concert etude, accompanied by the corresponding German text. The meaning implied by the text also inspired the entire overall feeling of this etude.
The ending might seem incomplete, as if more could have
been done to prepare us for the harmonic finality.
After “signing” Brain’s name a few times with his initials “D.B.”
I chose to end it with a bit of a question mark on purpose – my reaction to a life that was cut way too short, and wondering, “What if?” Dennis Brain only lived to be 36, but in such a short time, managed to create an incredible legacy, and inspire so many.
I indicated that this etude should be played freely.
I want as much soloistic and personal style to be put into this as possible, and I’d rather not guide it too much.