Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer’s Day?
From “Maytudes” – a french horn etude project in consultation with Gail Williams, with one etude created every day during the month of May, 2020
Version #1, for french horn and piano commissioned by Valerie Whitney
Version #2, for french horn and piano commissioned by Todd Bowermaster
Version #3, for french horn and piano commissioned by Hazel Dean Davis
Version #4, for french horn and piano commissioned by Avery Pettigrew
Sonnet 18: Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate: Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date;
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm’d;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance or nature’s changing course untrimm’d;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st;
Nor shall death brag thou wander’st in his shade, When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st:
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.
from composer Jim Stephenson (from original Maytudes etude book):
It may be that one would expect me to come out of the blocks “horns-a-blazin'” for a project like this. However, as I – and many others – have recently experienced personal tragedies,
I felt it appropriate to start in the way that I have.
My father – James M. Stephenson, Jr. – passed away on April 9, 2020. Just 3 weeks ago.
He had had a stroke 9 months ago, and even though his condition was slowly deteriorating, we feel that this current coronavirus crisis is what finally took him more quickly than expected.
A few months before he passed away, I had written the second movement of a guitar concerto, which I had dedicated to my father. The melody, which I am also using here, bases its rhythm on the Shakespeare sonnet quoted above. The sonnet mentions the word May, which is appropriate, of course, because of the month for all of these etudes, but that is also the month in which my father was born (May 23, 1936). The asterisks in the etude mark where each of the four stanzas begin. The large slurs are phrasing indications, whereas the secondary slurs under some notes indicate where melismas occur.
I hope that this etude allows for some opportunity to work on phrasing and clarity of slurred notes, some of which encompass wide intervals. There is also a rather
wide overall range included, with an optional, but preferred, low note at the end.
It is customary for me to not be super obvious where I think the player should breathe. In this case, this is most notable during the two slurred arpeggiated sections.
This is because I am a firm believer in the player organizing their breaths AROUND the music. The breaths should be musically prepared so that the listener feels a comfortable pace and flow to what they’re hearing. I therefore encourage a lot of personal expression during this and other subsequent etudes that I’ll be writing.
Make more music than you think; I promise – the composer won’t mind!