Sunday, March 10, 2002

CCO works to enrich musical repertoire




By Janelle Gelfand, jgelfand@enquirer.com
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        “In some ways we're quite spoiled,” says David Jolley, a virtuoso of the French horn. “We have four Mozart concertos, two Strauss concertos and two Haydn concertos (for French horn).

        “But everybody is scrambling for fine pieces of the 20th and 21st century — pieces that are not just modern, not just avant-garde. We've all done that. But the idea is to have pieces that really mean something to people, that audiences will really treasure.”

IF YOU GO
    What: Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra, Mischa Santora, conductor; David Jolley, horn; John Aler, tenor
    When/where: 3 p.m. today, Memorial Hall, Over-the-Rhine; 7:30 p.m. Monday, Greaves Concert Hall, Northern Kentucky University
    The program: Huw Watkins, Nocturne (world premiere); Benjamin Britten, Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings, Op. 3; Mozart, Serenade No. 10 in B-flat Major, K. 361 Gran partita
   
Tickets: $10; 723-1182 or online.
        Mr. Jolley was talking by phone from his practice room in New York, where he was learning Nocturne, a new piece he has commissioned from a 26-year-old British composer, Huw Watkins.

        He'll give the world premiere of Nocturne with the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra today and Monday.

        Also on the program, he'll be joined by American tenor John Aler, for Benjamin Britten's Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings.

        Mr. Jolley and the chamber orchestra will record both pieces for the Arabesque label.

        “I pride myself on really trying to find new works,” he says. “I'm trying everything I can to leave the repertoire richer than how I found it.”

        He recently performed Ellen Taaffe Zwilich's Concerto for Horn and Strings at Carnegie Hall with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, of which he is a founding member. Later this month in Santa Fe, he'll perform a new concerto written for him by George Tsontakis, a New York-born composer with a growing international reputation.

        And others have composed chamber music for him, such as a Horn Trio by John Harbison, a takeoff on Brahms' famous Horn Trio.

        Mr. Jolley, a product of public school music programs in Los Angeles, started playing horn at age 10.

        “By age 14, I knew that's what I wanted to do for the rest of my life,” he says.

        He idolized British horn player Dennis Brain, who was killed in a car accident in 1957 at age 36. Because he grew up on Dennis Brain recordings, he considers his playing “an L.A.-English blend.”

        Perhaps for that reason, he has a special affinity for Britten's Serenade, which was composed for Mr. Brain — then a 22-year-old phenom — and tenor Peter Pears.

        “Brain, Britten and Pears were all friends,” he says.

        In his preconcert talks, he plans to demonstrate how the composer begins and ends the piece using the natural notes — without valves — of the horn.

        “It sounds vaguely out of tune, like these pagan notes that he has us sound,” he says. “These notes to me just bring back such ancient echoes of the island of Britain, whether it's Macbeth, or the Anglos and the Saxons, the Druids or the Viking raiders — the wild men of the island.”

        The piece demands the ultimate from the players.

        “Each movement is sort of a cameo of a horn problem,” he says, laughing. “It's the ultimate in legato playing, the ultimate in soft, delicate playing, the ultimate in high playing, the ultimate in fast, deft playing.

        “There's no concession to human fraility.”
       



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