Ni Ensemble Performs Turner Works in Scotland

Posted By on October 12, 2010

The Ni Ensemble, an award winning brass quintet based in Luxembourg, is presently on tour in Scotland. They will be performing three of my compositions. The quintet is playing “Kaitsenko”, a brooding tone-poem about the infamous American-Indian (Kiowa) fighting brotherhood. The trio will be playing “Bandera”, a somewhat lighter piece of my youth- cowboys and adventure! And Kristina is presenting a piece for solo horn called “Phantom Shanties”. This piece is one of the book of 9 solos and was commissioned by the Rotterdam Maritime Museum as a gift to it’s retiring curator.

So if you want to hear this marvelous quintet, and be doused with a heavy dose of “turnerism”, find out where in your neighborhood they are playing. The will be in Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Helensburgh. For more information, check out their website: or contact me and I will get back to you.

Book of Etudes for Horn

Posted By on September 24, 2010

After having traveled the world far and wide, giving masterclasses and teaching privately, I have finally reached the point where I am ready to compose my own horn etude book. It has taken me a while to formulate a concept on just how I would like to put this work together. It seems to me that I need to address as many different levels of horn playing as possible. Thus, I have decided to write eight etudes for a “level 1″, which I am considering to be ages 12-16. Then I will compose eight etudes for “level 2″, being ages 17-20, eight etudes for “level 3″ or ages 21-24 and then eight etudes for professionals or “level 4″.

My plan is then to compose a duet, a trio and a quartet for each level. Mostly just a short piece which will be designed to help players at these levels learn and practice ensemble playing. I will also include an opening section on warming-up, including my own personal warm-up.

Now although I have worked with many students and professionals of different abilities and with different problems, I could still use a lot of input from those of you who have spent years in the “trenches of pedagogy.” I am well aware that this is a whole different world to the one I have been used to all these years. Therefore, I will be contacting several teachers who I know have “seen it all” and I will ask them about the specific problems that horn players in each of these levels encounter. I value experience very much! The trick will be to address these different problems, but at the same time, compose etudes which are beautiful, fun and interesting to work on. I have a feeling that I personally will wind up emphasizing the musical quality of the pieces. But we shall see.

The idea I have is to bind these 32 etudes and 12 ensemble pieces into a large volume with a heavy cover so that horn players can purchase a copy and then keep it and refer to it all their lives. I will keep you up-to-date about my progress on this opus.

My First Symphony- "The Grail Symphony"

Posted By on September 10, 2010

“The legend of the Grail, more than any other western myth, has retained the vital magic, which marks it as a living legend capable of touching both imagination and spirit. No other myth is so rich in symbolism, so diverse and often contradictory in meaning. And as its core there exists a secret which has sustained the mystical appeal of the Grail for the last nine hundred years, while other myths and legends have slipped into oblivion and been forgotten.

Something seems to grip the Western imagination when we talk of the Holy Grail. Some alchemical process appears to be triggered in our collective unconscious, transforming this often muddled and confused story into an archetypal dream image of the Ultimate Quest for All and Everything.”

(From “The Holy Grail, Its Origins, Secrets and Meaning Revealed” by Malcolm Godwin, Barnes & Nobles Books)

Searching for a subject matter on which to base this symphony, or indeed a focus or inspiration which would allow the muse to flow, so to speak, I found the legend of the Holy Grail to be irresistible. After having read all of the known traditions of the story, for example the Christian, the Chymical and the Celtic branches, I elected to adopt a more spiritual interpretation. I was fascinated by what is called “The Stations of the Four Hallows”. There exists a splendid chart outlining the various elements of the four hallows being the sword, the paten, the grail and the spear. The symbolism, which grew out of the various traditions lines up in a mystical, yet logical fashion:

Air Earth Water Fire
Spring Winter Autumn Summer
Yellow Green Blue Red
Arthur Gawain Parzival Amfortas
East North West South

It was not, however, my intention to compose a literal musical rendition or tone-poem about the Grail legend. I wanted to plunge deep into the inner meanings of this complicated phenomenon in order to perhaps make discoveries about myself and my fate, as well as to imprint on the collective human consciousness an explanation of the human condition, a lesson of humility in the past, a message of hope, and a call to mankind to evolve to a higher spiritual dimension. So in this spirit, I present this musical quest for the meaning of The Holy Grail.

The Sword of Saint Michael (Arthur, Sword, Air, Spring); Revelation 12, verses 7-12 tell of a great battle between good and evil which took place at the beginning of time. It is a mysterious passage, which just could, if one were open to it, explain the extreme behavior of man and his on going conflict on Earth. Johann Sebastian Bach dealt with this biblical passage for St. Michaels Mass in his spectacular Cantata Nr. 50. During the deepest throws of composing this movement, it seemed almost a completion of destiny that the music at first quotes and then evolves into a passage from this Cantata.

The Tears of Charlemagne- a Processional (Parzifal, Grail, Water, Autumn); In the year AD 800, during holy communion at St. Peter’s in Rome, Pope Leo III placed the crown of the Holy Roman Empire firmly on the head of Charlemagne. The great man was deep in prayer as this occurred and according to legend, he wept as he knelt there at the altar. This was the beginning of the fusion of church and state, in which the church became a powerful political institution, with not only all of the glory, wealth, promotion of the arts that this brings, but the corruption, warfare and promotion of ignorance and fear as well. Indeed this turbulent marriage lasted for over one thousand years. Perhaps Charlemagne, on some level, realized the long lasting and dramatic effect this coronation was to have. The complexity of this historic fusion is represented in a giant double fugue processional.

Candles in the Darkness- “It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness” (Amfortas, Spear, Fire, Summer); Out of the deep and murky past with its profound troubles there is yet a small spark of hope. Somewhere in the pitch black, a candle has been lit. All it takes is one small flame to reinstate one’s orientation. Then one can light another candle, and yet another, until the room, the city, and country and the world are glittering with healing and illuminating light. In the Grail saga, the spear is the hallow which heals the land, regenerating and restoring fertility and life.

The Grail Knight (Gawain, Paten, Earth, Winter); According to the Grail saga, Gawain heard the voices of maidens calling him to a castle. In the banquet hall, four maidens appear, bearing a cup, a lance, a sword and a dish. Gawain must ask the question, the ultimate and innocent question, which will heal the Earth and set mankind free from its curse. Obviously, there is a plethora of symbolism in this episode. But the final message seems to be a call to mankind to awaken from its long and cursed slumber and heal itself and the Earth. Indeed, it is time for humanity to evolve to a higher, more spiritual plane. The “other-worldly” and mysterious procession of the four maidens is represented compositionally in a fugue, which is created on a 24- note dodecaphonic row.

A note on the harmonic language of “The Grail Symphony”: This work was composed in the 21st century. The previous century was an extremely turbulent one for the development of compositional style and language. Indeed, it seemed as if everything had been done and there was no longer the possibility to utilize tonality as a legitimate style. Those who promoted, even to the point of exclusivity, this way of composing were failing to recognize a beautiful truth. We composers have inherited a vast wealth of possible styles, techniques, tonalities and instrumentations. In the new century, we are freer than ever before to draw on this inheritance. This is particularly in line with the message of “The Grail Symphony”. It is indeed time for classical music composers to awaken and evolve to a higher plane.

The Text of Movement 4- “The Grail Knight”

Gawain. Gawain. Thy Lord awaiteth thee.
See now how Amfortas suffers.
The land is sick. And the land doth grieve.
Come now and dine with him.
Fulfill thy destiny.
Partake in this mysterious feast.

Spirits of the heavenly host
Who guided mankind since time eternal,
Do desire to save us now
From the errant course that leads to darkness.

Clear your ego. Free the slate.
And ask the question. Free the land.
Thy innocence shall expose the deception.
Mankind must evolve to a higher plane.

Lance of Longinus. Blood of Christ!
And cup of salvation. Circle of life!
Awaken mankind. Now!
Life awaits thee!

Notes on the orchestration:

In the first two movements, a giant church bell is called for. If this is not available, a synthesizer may be used to reproduce this sound.

The synthesizer may also be used to reproduce the harpsichord in the off-stage baroque orchestra of the first movement.

The off-stage baroque orchestra in the first movement may be alternatively performed by the last stand 1st violin, cello and oboe and bassoon of the orchestra on-stage.

In the fourth movement, “CODA- majestic”, an antiphonal brass ensemble, positioned at the back of the auditorium may be employed to contribute to the spectacular effect of the closing section.

Summer Activities

Posted By on September 6, 2010

I was going to write a blog, describing my trip to Singapore and Australia. But Kristina, who was with me every second of the trip, has already written a beautiful account on her blog. So please read what she has written. You can go directly to her blog on my links page: Onemoreindulgence.

Due Annunci Importanti

Posted By on August 7, 2010

Vorrei annunciare ufficialmente, che ha il cambiamento de personale della American Horn Quartet, effettivamente avuto luogo. Il fondatore del Quartetto, David Johnson era dimesso lo scorso dicembre, e Kristina Mascher è stato adottato come nuovo membro dell’ensemble. Kristina sona con la AHQ, per piu de un anno.

Voglio anche far notare a tutti che il AHQ, ha ora una nuova gestione. Per prenotare ensemble di fama mondiale, si prega di contattare con Petra Schäfer-Röpenack a .

Dos Anuncios Importantes

Posted By on August 6, 2010

Yo quiero anunciar oficialmente el cambio del personal del American Horn Quartet. Nuestro fundador, David Johnson, ha resignado, y Kristina Mascher ha aceptado la posicion. Kristina ya ha ejecutado con el American Horn Quartet mas que uno año.

Adicionalmente, yo debo anunciar que nosotros tenemos uno Nuevo impresario. Si desea invitar el AHQ por uno concierto o masterclass, por favor ponerse en contacto con Petra Röpenack-Schäfer bei .

Deux Renseignements Intéressants

Posted By on August 5, 2010

Je voudrais annoncer officiel le changement du personnel de l’American Horn Quartet. Le fondateur du qutauor, Mr. David Johnson, a démissionné le decembre passé, et Madame Kristina Mascher à étè invité de devenir le nouveau membre de l’ensemble. Kristina à joué avec l’ AHQ depuis un ans déjà plusieurs fois.

En plus, il faut informer à tout le monde que l’AHQ à changé notre management. Si vous etes interessé d’engager ce rénomé ensemble, veuillez contacter Petra Röpenack-Schäfer à

Zwei Interessante Hinweise

Posted By on August 5, 2010

Ich möchte ganz offiziell ansagen, dass der Personellwechsel des American Horn Quartetts, tatsächlich stattgefunden hat. Der Gründer des Quartetts, David Johnson, war letzter Dezember, zurückgetreten, und Kristina Mascher wurde als neues Mitglied des Ensembles angenommen. Kristina spielt mit dem AHQ, schon seit über ein Jahr.

Ausserdem möchte ich allen, darauf aufmerksam machen, dass das AHQ, nun ein neues Management hat. Um das welt berühmte Ensemble zu buchen, setzen Sie sich bitte, mit Petra Röpenack-Schäfer bei in Verbindung.

One Hell of a Year!

Posted By on August 2, 2010

It’s the first of August. My vacation has finally begun. It has been an incredibly eventful year. When I think back to last August, just as that’s year’s holiday drew to a close after two weeks of solitude and non-hornistic occupation, I am filled with emotion, both good and bad. My concert and travel schedule from September 2009 till July 27th, 2010 resembled that of a rock star. This included activities as a composer and, even more, as a horn player. Over these eleven months, I have performed with either the Virtuoso Horn Duo, the American Horn Quartet, the Luxembourg Philharmonic or as a soloist in over twelve countries, including no less than four trips to the U.S. (it should have been five). After having paged through my date book, I can count at least eighty concerts! During all of this, I was experiencing some major “chop” difficulties, about which I have been quite vocal. Although I had some damn close calls, I am extremely happy to report that I seem to have emerged out of the other end of this crisis rather unscathed. Suffice it to say, it was very tough on my health.

Compositionally, I managed to produce a bit of opus. For starters, I completed my first symphony- “The Grail Symphony.” I also penned a few pieces and arrangements for the VHD and the AHQ. The OPL played a small commissioned piece of mine (and they have booked my tone-poem “Karankawa” for next season, by the way), and I composed a piece for combined woodwind and brass quintets called “The Navajo Mandala”.

So where do I go from here? Spain. For two weeks of “R and R”. Next season looks much easier. I will be dedicating quite a bit of time to my compositional library, including publishing and promotion. But most of all, and in the immediate future, I will be reliving the thrilling moments as well as the deep valleys of anxiety which, from henceforth in my life, shall always define my 2009-2010 season.

“You never know when you have enough until you have too much.”

Upcoming Concerts in Singapore and Australia

Posted By on July 2, 2010

On Monday, July 12th, Kristina and I will be boarding a plane bound for Singapore and Australia. It will be the start of a rather busy three-week concert tour. We are performing and teaching as members of the American Horn Quartet, as well as with our pianist, Lauretta Bloomer, as the Virtuoso Horn Duo. For those of you who are interested in hearing us and meeting up during this intensive touring period, I have decided to list the dates, venues, programs and other pertinent informarion :

Thursday, July 15th : VHD Recital in Singapore
6 PM Top Brass Music Shop
148, MacKenzie Road
Contact Jamie Hersch :
(write « Top Brass VHD » as the subject.)

Sunday, July 18th : American Horn Quartet in Brisbane
4 :30 PM 42nd International Horn Society Symposium
Griffith University, Queensland Conservatorium
Opening Ceremony (« Waltzing Matilda »)

Monday, July 19th : American Horn Quartet Recital in Brisbane
7 :30 PM With Mr. Frank Lloyd
42nd International Horn Society Symposium
Griffith University, Queensland Conservatorium

Wednesday, July 21st :Virtuoso Horn Duo Recital in Brisbane
7 :30 PM With William Vermeulen and Nikki Cash
42nd International Horn Society Symposium
Griffith University, Queensland Conservatorium

Friday, July 23rd : American Horn Quartet in Brisbane
8 PM Schumann Konzertstück with the
Queensland Symphony
QPAC, Brisbane

Monday, July 26th : Virtuoso Horn Duo in Sydney (concert and Masterclass)
7 PM Barker College Music Centre
Recital Hall for tickets

Tuesday, July 27th : Virtuoso Horn Duo in Sydney
Either 4-6 or Masterclass
5 :30-7 PM Sydney Conservatory