AHQ Recording Project in Maastricht

Posted By on January 22, 2007

Members of the AHQ enjoying a lighter moment during the recording sessions in January, 2007.Saturday and Sunday, the 20th and 21st of Januray, the lads of the American Horn Quartet and I travelled to the Dutch city of Maastricht, where we recorded five works which shall be available either on CD, on iTunes or by direct download from the AHQ website (watch this site for further information about that.) My wife, Kristina and my publisher, Mr. Bud Fenker were asked to act as “producers” for this project, and André Hilkins of Red Buttons Recordings in The Netherlands was hired as the recording engineer. I had worked with all three of these marvelous people on various recording projects in the past. Their experience and easygoing personalities combined with superb team-work skills rendered them the perfect choice for the sometimes difficult-to-understand working atmosphere and general karma of the AHQ. In fact, it could not have gone smoother!
AHQ and the production team discussing the takes after a session.The program is an interesting one: Myths and Legends by Eric Ewazen, Three Movements for Horn Quartet, Barbara Allen (original version) and Rule Britannia! by yours truly, and Intuitions by our old friend, Kaz Machala. The title of the recording will most likely be “Myths and Legends”. With the exception of my work, Three Movements for Horn Quartet, which is somewhat more accessible technically than other works of mine for this genre, all of these pieces have been in the AHQ performing repertoire for quite some time. We have simply never found the right opporunity to include them on an album.

Our allotted time was rather limited. We met in Bonn on the 18th and 19th. Geof and Charlie were in the middle of Mahler 5 rehearsals, so we were only able to play about 4 hours each day. Then we drove up to Maastricht. (Frequent visitors to this website may recognize the Harmoniezaal Peter en Paulus in Maastricht where I recorded my brass ensemble works, “The Heroes” back in 2005.) On Saturday we had only 9:30 to 4 PM to record and on Sunday we had the entire day. To our collective surprise, we actually finished early, often only playing two to three takes. This was no doubt due to the professionlism of each of the members of the AHQ and the Production Team, the AHQ´s familiarity with the repertoire as well as their dedicated individual advance practice.

I would like to take this opporunity to make an observation about the present state of the American Horn Quartet. We have been performing and recording together for over twenty years. When we were younger, we approached some astonishingly difficult repertoire fearlessly and with loads of youthful enthusiasm. It seems to me, in hindsight, that we were running on some sort of energy field. You practiced your part, tucked your head down, and when the lead horn gave the cue, you played like hell….and it all worked! Perhaps I may be so bold as to say that we were kind of naive. Nowadays, we dive deeply into every note, every nuance and all ensemble execution. Not only do we want each and every note to be golden, but people seem to expect that kind of quality from us. And our production team in the booth demanded that of us the entire time. The AHQ has reached a level of musical maturity that I find to be remarkable. We sound better than ever before! But at the same time, it somehow seems much more difficult than it used to.Years of recording experience have turned us into pros in the studio. Geof’s recording kit includes metronome, latest tempo markings, various oils, and mute holder.

Having written that, it was a pleasure to have participated in this project. I think we have presented the horn world with high quality renditions of very fine repertoire for horn quartet. And this has always been the main goal and “raison d´etre” of the AHQ.

There are more pics from the recording sessions in the Photo Gallery under American Horn Quartet.

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