Berliner Philharmoniker Master Class - Horn

Uploaded by BerlinPhil on 11.10.2010


SARAH WILLIS: Hi, I'm Sarah Willis and I'm standing on
the stage of the big hall in the Philharmonie in Berlin.
And I've been asked to do a mini, mini master class for the
horn players who are applying to be part of the YouTube
Symphony Orchestra.
It's got to be a mini, mini master class I'm afraid, but
I'm hoping that some of the things I can say might be of
some help while preparing for the audition.
The excerpt I chose is the fourth horn solo from
Beethoven's Ninth Symphony because it looks on paper maybe
to be the most uninteresting of all the solos.
But it in addition, it's quite hard to play because you stand
on stage or you're sitting at home in your living room and
you have to convince the audience or the jury that it's
not just a bunch of long notes but that you hear that there
are woodwinds playing with you, and you make some sort of music
out of this long, long passage.
Standing here I just remembered the last time I stood on this
stage and played this excerpt was in my own audition
for this orchestra.
So yeah, it's bringing back a lot of memories.
So let's start.
You all have the music.
I have the music in front of me.
And I was thinking about a tempo, there are all sorts of
different tempos for this piece-- it says adagio, I
thought maybe the average tempo taken from the few conductors
that I've played it with would be about quarter
note equals 52.
So that might be some sort of a basis for you to
practice with a metronome.

The other thing is to make sure you know the score
and now what's going on.
This whole pot is a dialogue between the two clarinets,
the bassoon, and the horn.
The horn is sometimes in accompaniment, the horn is
sometimes a solo instrument, and you need to show that you
know that in the audition part.
So with a dry mouth, having spoken to much, I'll try and
play a bit of it for you.

[horn being played]
Here comes the bar you're all waiting for.
This next bar I have a little tip that has always helped
me, maybe it will help you.
To play the low notes-- they have to sound just as easy as
all the other notes and for a lot of us they're
quite a struggle.
My tip would be to open up the hand for the low notes,
otherwise they sound a little bit muffled.
Like this--
[horn being played]
Also the F have to be sharp enough, it's often very flat.
So the more you open up the hand, the sharper it'll get.
After the F there comes the jump up to the F above
and the C sharp.
A good conductor should wait for you to get up there,
but he won't wait all day.
So in the audition you need to take a tiny bit of time,
but still get up there.
[horn being played]
That whole passage as you know is mainly horn solo.
You have the clarinets and a flute comes and weaves around,
but that whole passage can be played out a little bit
more and the crescendos, diminuendos very expressive.
Then you have the long F to hold before the biggest
solo of the excerpt.
This long F is time to just sort of gather your
thoughts, stop your beating heart, whatever.
But still, keep the triplets of the violins going while
you hold out this note.
They're going dah, dah, dah, dah, dah, dah, dah, dah,
dah, dah, dah, dah.
It helps.
I just find it helps to keep the concentration.
And then comes the one bar that says solo.
It's maybe the biggest fourth horn solo in
the whole repertoire.
And you can do this how you want.
Some people play it with a little slur in it.
Some people play it tongued.
Some people do a huge ritardando, rubato,
however you feel.
But whatever it is it's got to be convincing.
How I like to play it is like this:
[horn being played]
The last two bars obviously aren't solo anymore, but the
crescendo is there and you'll impress a jury if you show
them you know that's leading in to the next passage.
OK, now for something completely different, and even
though I'm a low horn player, and maybe I shouldn't be giving
tips about Till Eulenspiegel.
I sit next to a lot of solo horns who've
played this in my time.
And maybe a couple of tips, you of course, can hear this solo
on thousands of recordings and there are different
ways to play it.
A couple of tips for me would be to really make sure that
you do what Strauss wanted.
For example, the beginning of Till Eulenspiegel
it says gemachlich.
That means leisurely in English or sort of taking your time.
And what Strauss meant was Till Eulenspiegel was a really--
he was a real scoundrel.
He was a very naughty guy and he caused a lot of trouble.
And this was his first appearance in the piece.
When this theme appears it's always representing
Till Eulenspiegel.
This is his first appearance and he's not quite sure-- he's
sort of sticking his head out and seeing if the
coast is clear.
It would be nice to play it a little bit like that because
when it comes to the second time he's more self assured and
he's showing what he can do.
So really take it seriously what Strauss says and play the
beginning a little bit leisurely, a little bit sort of
looking out to see if the coast is clear.
And gradually, getting more lively and getting more
confidence as it goes on.
I'm going to try and play it even though
I'm a low horn player.
When else do I have the opportunity to play this?

[horn being played]
A tip would be, also like I said in the Beethoven Ninth for
the last two notes-- the G and the C-- is to open the hand a
little bit more because it just makes the low notes a lot
clearer and just be careful they're not
too sharp of course.
But it really does help in the low range to
play a bit more open.
So that was Till.
Those were my ideas for Till and I wish you all the best,
and looking forward to hearing all the different versions.