New disc - just out!

Kathryn Cok and I are pleased to announce the release of our debut disc.  Sonatas for Horn and Fortepiano (Challenge Classics) features sonatas by Beethoven, Krufft, Leidesdorf and an early 19th century Haydn movement transcribed for horn and fortepiano.

Available in all good record shops plus:
Amazon (ukdefr,)

and soon to be on itunes!

More information on the disc can be found on my website and a nifty little video about it can be found here.  Hope you all enjoy!

Eeeek - long time away.

Oh blimey.  I hadn't realised how long it was since I was last here!  Probably that's a fair reflection on how busy the last few weeks have been.

So in summary!

I've just got back from battling the British winter, getting back up to the Bate Collection, Oxford, which VERY kindly lent me their Raoux cor solo for the last few weeks.  A wonderful instrument and I'm very sad to give it back.

Just before I left Paris I got the opportunity to visit the Cite de la Musique and see the Raoux cor solo that belonged to Gallay and play it a little.  It was great to have the chance to compare the Bate Collection instrument with this instrument and reassured me that I had made the right decision in using the Bate Collection instrument for this project.

I've been back in the UK for the last week.  The final week in France was taken up with recording not only the 12 Caprices, but also 12 of the unmeasured Preludes AND 12 of the Fantasias - a real bonus.  The recording was probably one of the most enjoyable I've done.  Though not un-stressful from the point of view of the mountain of music I had in front of me working with Claude Maury (producing) and Hannelore Guittet (engineer) was a joy.  It was incredibly cold in the countryside (La Salle Glazier at the Musee national de Port-Royal des Champs) but beautiful.  Photos of the sessions can be found here.

And still it rains...

Bleurh.  More rain.  (And more Parisiens saying to me "you're from England - you should be used to it").  Today I'm feeling a little blue - not because of the weather but because I'm moving on to a new apartment.  I've been renting off a couple of colleagues who've been on holiday the last three weeks.  I feel utterly spoilt as it's a beautiful place in a great district (the 19th - around Belleville).  It's been particularly nice to get to know a new part of Paris, especially one of the "further out" districts.  It's still amazing though to be living in a large city that's so walkable - hence continuing grumpiness about the rain.

Today was also interesting in a "let's see how another country does things" kind of way with it being the 11th of November.  As it's a jour férié (bank holiday) so the language school was closed and I was thinking that it'd be like Monday mornings with everything shut however I was surprised that so many shops and restaurants were open.  Except a couple of places I wanted to go which were, naturally, shut.  Drat.

This afternoon was the recording session with Concert d'Astree - Emanuelle Haim's group.  Funnily enough I hadn't realised that I was missing working with other musicians so much.  It's been tremendous to have the time to focus in so much on one piece (or set of pieces) and very unusual as normally life is more hectic.  Also, it is unusual for me to be working on music that involves no one else.  So today it really struck me what I've been missing.  The other horn players for this session Jeroen Billiet on 1st, Yanick Maillet on 2nd and Cyrille Grenot on 4th, a particularly friendly group.  Jeroen was sounding stunning on a rather nasty tricky horn part - it was the Act III Sinfonia from Handel's Guilio Cesare which is fiddly and high for the first horn player.  It was also great (and at times frustrating) chatting afterwards.  Jeroen I've known for a long time and know to be extremely knowledgable about various bits and pieces of musicological history, however Cyrille I had heard about but only met (briefly) the other day at the rehearsal.  A number of people had told me that Cyrille would be worth speaking to as he's quite an expert on the history of the horn in France (I always have to put it that way to avoid saying "the French horn" and then having to clarify things).  I felt pleased to be able to follow more of the conversation but frustrated as every so often I would struggle with the french a little more - and I'm certain I missed a lot that they were talking about.  But Cyrille was incredibly helpful and has offered to go to some of the Archives with me if time permits, also he knows were a few things are that I didn't know about such as letters.  I'm finding that you really do have to know the right people often to be able to dig these things out - catalogues are often incomplete (or inaccessible unless you're actually at the library/archive).  Funnily enough there is a part of me that is rather glad about this - it'd be a shame if research became the sort of activity that could easily be done just by sitting at a computer with internet connections visiting the various online catalogues and ordering copies of the music/letters/whatever by email and living in a little self contained box.

Ohhhhhh! Lots of goodies!!!!!

What a wonderful day!  The last few days have been a little miserable.  Nothing horrific!  Just horrible weather which is a frustrating my plans to walk most of Paris.  I'm always a fan of the maxim "there's no such thing as bad weather, just bad choice of clothes" or something like that...  However my trusty wellies are back in London and therefore, despite my generally good decisions in packing (balancing the various requirements - departing in early October, returning late November, covering Italy, Switzerland, Germany and France and yet wanting to be a little minimalist!) I've been struggling the past few days.

Click to see full size: Frazz 12-01-07
I had wanted to go on a long trek on Sunday and had hoped to walk down to the Sorbonne and maybe even make the Catacombes.  But the constant downpour put pay to that.  Instead I wondered down to the  Cimetiere du Pere Lachaise which seemed particularly apt on a grotty day.  A fascinating place - some really tremendous statues.  Though I was rather surprised that I couldn't find a decent list of who's "there".  The "celebrity" lists are easy to find but is there a fuller "directory"?   I had some vague memory of passing through there once before and seeing a "Raoux" which, of course, I couldn't find again.  I did make a pilgrimage to see where Rossini was briefly (before being returned to Italy) and found the plastic flowers and dead candles particularly apt - I think he would have had a giggle at them.  I also thought I had found Gabriel Fauré (FAURE inscription plus a lyre on the "door") but I think he's at Passy.  

Then today I had an extremely productive afternoon at the Bibliotheque.  I got a couple of hints from helpful colleagues (where to head and how it all works) which was useful.  These type of places always seem to have their own ways of doing things.  Everyone at the Bibliotheque was terribly helpful and I managed to get my mits on some of the things I was looking for and there were a couple of things that were pleasant surprises!  I was dancing with glee when I discovered one thing that really makes me sure of the choices I've made for the crooks for the Caprices.  However I'm convinced I'm not going to use up my 15 days I've purchased but it opens up the possibility of just popping in - especially in April when I'm over at the Opera Comique.  A few hunches I'd like to follow up....

Manière de faire le trille.

A bit of a wash out of a day (quite literarily - it rained and rained and rained - thus messing up my original plan of a long walk).  So took the opportunity to get a bit more work done on learning French.  Also a bit of time to get back to reading Gallay's Methode.  The below is the first draft on his chapter on the trill.  PLEASE NOTE THIS IS WORK IN PROGRESS.  If anyone wishes to use this do let me know first as it may well have been revised!


[1] The Trill that many people have demanded and demand at the wrong moment of the cadence [2], is a very difficult ornament to execute perfection on the horn; it results from a successive beating, flowing between two notes which are a tone or semi-tone apart.   This beating must accelerate more or less inkeeping  with the character of the piece in which It is in.

The method in which trills are taught by the methods published in recent years appears to me to be incorrect in that [by these methods] the tongue must remain completely foreign to the execution [of the trill] whilst effectively it is only the lips that act to move from the lower note to the higher note.  Without wanting to concern us with the root of this controversial question and passing to review all the inconveniences, there emerges a parallel principle that I will nonetheless not be prevented in delivering to the appreciation of my readers.

First, the trill that is made with the lips will always have something weak, timid which contrast, often in a shocking manner, with the style of the piece in which it is used.  Next it is often quivering, because, in my opinion, the lips are powerless to act with the extreme vivacity that is demanded.  Finally the movement (one could almost say convulsion) of the lips, a sort of nervous contraction, makes the face grimace and tests the chin with a disagreeable trembling which can react [badly?] on the left hand.

It is on the contrary the tongue, and the tongue alone that is able to do the work to produce the trill; it’s movements are still more rapid staying concentratingly  in the mouth with no exterior evidence: the trill, made thus, has the advantage of being at the same time flowing with more balance between the beats with more speed,  above all between the sharp notes.


The trill is not easily made with the same facility on all notes of the scale, it will be necessary at first to work on the open notes which are more favourable to this ornament than the stopped notes.

The tongue will emit with softness the first note, as in an ordinary tongued note; then to more easily alternate between the lower note to the upper note, the tongue will lightly beat the internal edge of the lips, whilst strongly supporting the breath; these beats must be, so to speak, undulating, [the tongue] must in a way never strike a blow.

It is easy to make an exact idea of the mechanical play of the tongue in the trills: after hitting each note, the tongue carries itself forward, and comes, as I said, more high, it brushes the internal edge of the lips, then withdraws onto itself in a retroactive movement, and so on until the breath expires.  This goes and comes continually (if I am able to thus express myself),  the two notes flow closely together, and produce the trill.

It is necessary above all to give the same value to each of the two notes, to flow between them equally without jerking, and to accelerate the beating progressively until one succeeds in making quickly moving trills.  It is only by constant work and stubbornness that one will succeed in obtaining the speed and equality in the beating of the notes, and consequently return to master the trill.

Before beginning the following examples, the student must take care to breathe as much air as possible, in order to play them in a single breath; and he will not loose sight of making also the slurs which must be held onto as much as possible and their separation which has been marked with some effort.

[1] I give his only part of the trill and the manner in which it is made.  An explanation of the preparation and the termination are to be found with the musical ornaments that you can see on page 76.
[2] The term Cadence is used in music to show the end of a phrases or a momentary pause.

Back and forth

Just back from a quick trip back to the UK.  I can't really afford to be away for too long with my teaching.  Luckily the half term covered one or two weeks of this jaunt but I needed to pop back on Friday and returned this afternoon.  I'll sort of do a similar thing next week.

I would have preferred in many ways not to have done this however it was fine if a little exhausting.  Partially it had to be done for boring financial reasons but also it needed to be done just to make sure that the students don't go too long without a lesson from me.  I have excellent deputy teachers but really need to show my face if it's at all possible.  It was lovely to see many of the students - nice bunch.

Also nice to be briefly home.  I had a bit of that feeling one gets on returning of - "oh yeah, London is really a great place" and also similar views on my home (I'm really spoilt where I'm living here in Paris and feared I would have apartment envy!).  Ate more than I should have (also a rare bottle of wine) which makes me feel very heavy today.

Popping back to London in many ways also is prompting more thoughts on how I live my life and the various pros and cons.  I've so much enjoyed the freedom I have in undertaking this project.  It has led to a different rhythm to my days.  I also realised how much the first week here revolved around me struggling with various things and trying to get into a rhythm (eg struggling with the french course - I now have settled into that and understand more of what's required of me, also I know that, though I might struggle with something, it's all "work in progress".  Similarly the first week I was juggling all sorts of options with the Gallay, which instrument/which crooks and then now that's all sorted so I can settle down and get some work done.  The first week I had various financial concerns which were sorted out at the end of the week so the second week that was clearer).  The first week seemed full of things that seemed unclear and by the second week they all seemed to have worked themselves out.

It's raining like crazy here in Paris.  I've come back and tried to get to grips with "Prenoms Relatifs".  I'm unsurprised but you can really spend hours on the language learning - just trying to get your head round something and then put the time in to make it more fluent.  I need to make sure that this week I have a look at the Gallay Methode again as the last week there were a few things I thought I should go back to the source for - his thoughts on ornaments for example.  In a funny way the more I start to understand about french the more difficult I find reading the Methode.  Probably perhaps because you stop "gist-ing" the translation and start getting all tied up with details?

Social whirl!

Having had a rather hermit like first week the last few days have been much more social.  On Sunday I met up with the fantastic Claude Maury briefly at the CNSMD Paris.  Claude was my teacher when I studied at the Abbaye Aux Dames in Saintes and has always been a great inspiration and a great support.  His knowledge and expertise is legendary and it was very helpful to run a few things past him.  I'd been procrastinating about various things and it was great to have a chat with him.  I've settled on which instrument to use for the Gallay Caprices plus now have an order!  As the Caprices don't specify what crook to use I've been trying out various ideas (see posting on Sunday 31st of October for the variables).  I had wanted to try and get back to the original order of the Caprices, also I had wanted to use a variety of crooks as I enjoy the different colours.  But I also needed to come up with some sort of harmonic structure within in the whole thing which now I have!  So since then things have been easier as I can focus now on what I am going to do rather than experimenting with a million different versions.  I popped into the harmonia mundi boutique at the cite de la musique opposite the CNSMD whilst I was there and bought some nice postcards.  Hopefully they'll help my french somehow!
DO - RE - ME - FA - SOL - LA -SI - DO


After I'd met up with Claude I wandered down to Gare du Nord to meet Jeroen Billiet.  Jeroen kindly gave me a copy of his recently released a disc of Belgian music for horn - really fascinating repertoire and masterfully played. 

Monday was similarly busy with lunch at the home of the sound engineer Hannelore Guittet and dinner at Nicola Boud's.  People are being so friendly and generous.  I said I would bring desert for my lunch at Hannelore's which gave me a great excuse to visit the patisserie opposite.  One of the things that I hadn't expected to experience as part of this adventure was seeing a different side to Paris - a bit of the world that exists behind the door codes!  I'm trying to keep my eyes open for doors left ajar as so often there is something curious lurking there.

Monday also saw us reassessed at school for the new month.  I'm still very impressed with langue onze and their teachers.  I'm now in a new group and it seems to suit me quite well.  Last week I seemed to be with a group many of whom had started at the beginning of October (from scratch?).  I was very much in awe of how well disciplined they were - I mean in terms of their use of the french language rather than behaviour (well they were all very well behaved people as well but that's by the by).  I still feel quite out of my depth in the new group - everyone seems more fluent than me but the new group seems to be mainly of people who have an ok grasp of French already, have some things they need to revise or clarify but who aren't total beginners.  And also the group is full of interesting people.  I met a Canadian pianist called Laura Loewen in this group who is fascinating but sadly leaving this Friday but I got to have a good chat with her at lunch on wednesday.  Also a young danish DJ called Ask Paul Lomholt whose mixes I had the chance to listen to yesterday on soundcloud.

Today I had a (very brief) rehearsal with Concert d'Astree.  My colleague Jeroen knew I was going to be here this month and they needed a third horn for a recording next week.  It was much fun especially as there were a fair few people there I hadn't seen in a long time.

I'm off home (briefly) tomorrow mainly to see my pupils at Blackheath and Trinity.  I've been away for a fair while that I'm curious to see how it feels.  I'm bringing home cheese from the "Maitre Fromager" Pascal Beillevaire opposite where I'm staying plus desert from Patisserie de l'Eglise, oh and a bottle of wine so maybe it won't feel that different?

They came from outer space!

So it's been a very busy week but very enjoyable.  I've tried to take it a little more easily during the weekend.  When I did the interview for the Finzi Scholarship I was delighted when one of the panel mildly reprimanded me for having constructed such a full schedule.  He (quite rightly) pointed out that packing so much in was dangerous because if one thing didn't happen then there wasn't room to "make up" but he was also quite adamant that I should ENJOY MYSELF.  Make time for actually enjoying being in Paris.  Now, this is something which I'm trying to learn!  At the moment part of the problem is that I'm really fired up about the Gallay works and learning French so I'm inclined to work and work and work...until I drop.  So I'm trying to have a more laid back weekend.

Yesterday I finished recording (very very roughly) a couple of rough versions of the Caprices.  At the moment there seems to be three variants; A. i) Caprices on their own, ii) each Caprice partnered with a Prelude or iii) some Caprices partnered with a Prelude. B. i)  All on one crook (probably Eb), ii) impose an harmonic order or iii) a mixture of crooks dependent on the character of the piece.  C. i) perform the Caprices in order of publication or ii) mess around with the order (this one is slightly dictated by the decision made for B.  The rough recordings I've made over the past couple of days cover a few of these options.  However someone just suggested another harmonic order which I'd like to try...  One way or another I've just put the six versions I currently have on my ipod and will have a bit of a listen today and try and narrow my options down.  It'd be great to start the next week with a definitive version.

So having done some good work I set out on a bit of a march.  The heavens had opened early on Saturday morning so I was glad to see the sun.  I ended up wandering down to Bastille then over to Ils Saint-Louis, home of (in my opinion) the best ice-cream in the world (specifically Caramel au Beurre Sal as made by Berthillon - sounds vile but it is heaven)...  

Berthilon itself was closed but many other places on Ils Saint-Louis sell their ice-cream so I  treated myself to one!

Walked back via the windows of Orphée a rather wonderful antique musical instrument shop run by a lovely chap called Richard Charbit.  It was also closed (probably good for my bank balance) but I might see about returning there before my stay is up.  

One of the things I've been noticing in Paris is the number of aliens in Paris.  You see them in other cities too sometimes.  By this I mean the little space invaders made out of mosaic tiles that keep popping up.  They seem to be invading!  I found a map of them but think I'll just keep my eyes open and see if I can find some more!

Visit to the Bibliothèque National de France

Excellent news!  I am now the proud holder of a readers card for the BNF!!

I was kind of dreading my first visit.  I've held readers cards for the British Library (fondly known as the BL) for years and remember some nerve wracking interviews trying to renew them.  Understandably these places try to weed out applicants who really ought not to be there.  There are so many researchers who badly need access to these resources and it makes sense that those whose needs could be equally (or better?) served elsewhere use other libraries as their first port of call.  Also, as I'm not really affiliated with any institution as a researcher I tend not to have the right bits of paper.  As with a lot of things, musicians tend to fall between the gaps - many of us are actively researching various things but we don't have an ID card with a university logo on it.  So going when you're applying for admission you always fear that they're going to turn you down for one reason or another and when you're trying to get access to maybe the sole manuscript of a piece this can be more than disappointing.

Luckily the BNF seemed to accept a mixture of me spluttering away in terrible French (though I managed it!  I MUST be getting better!), the letter from the Finzi Trust offering me the scholarship and finally my ID card from Junior Trinity.  The combination of the three seemed to do it.  However I sort of suspect that the woman interviewing me might have taken pity on me and my poor French!  I rather stupidly ended up buying a 15 day card which works out more expensive than repeatedly buying a 3 day card - I just assumed that it would be cheaper and it's strangely more expensive.  Ah well.  I've got the damn thing now so that's the main thing.  It's interesting to contrast the BNF approach which is to charge for readership (€45 euros for 15 days within a year or €8 for 3 days) to the BL which is free.  I'm a huge fan of the BL and am intrigued as to how it manages to offer all it does for free - I wonder whether this will continue in the next few years bearing in mind many of the current cuts in education and arts...  Actually ought not to say things like that out loud as it might give some people ideas.

So that was the challenge of the day.  I thought I'd leave actually visiting the reading room for another day - libraries always seem to be totally idiosyncratic and full of strange rituals which you're somehow expected to know.  I thought actually getting the card was enough stress for one day so am leaving grappling with the system for another.

I'm very much enjoying being here - though slightly alarmed that I'm quickly approaching the end of the first week!

In at the (sort of) deep end

First day at school.  As I suspected it's sort of awkward joining at this point in the course.  Technically the courses here work on a monthly basis with everyone signing up at the beginning of the month.  Because I'm not a total beginner (though not far off) they were happy for me to join in the fourth week but as I feared it means I've joined the fourth week of the beginners.  It's not too bad because I'm not starting from scratch though having never had formal French lessons there are gaps in my knowledge and in my confidence as well.   The others have had three rather hard core weeks so I feel a little daunted!  On the plus side it gives me a week to hopefully get enough under my belt so I don't then have to start at the beginning come next month.  On the plus side the school seems very very good and I'm very impressed with the teacher.  There's only 8 of us in the class and it seems to be a good mixture of speaking, writing, grammar and listening which I'm glad of.  I was speaking to a colleague who had gone to another language school in Paris and I was a little surprised when she said it was really only conversation.  Though that's probably one thing you can't do on your own I feel as if I do need to have all the other building blocks going on to get somewhere with this!

Having had a fair workout at the school I came home to get cracking with the Gallay.  Didn't quite get as much practice done as I had scheduled - partially due to having not played this instrument for a few weeks and needing to get a different sort of stamina going again - but wasn't far off.  This week is mainly about getting the Caprices going again having had a break from them for a couple of months.  But I'm also trying to formulate different approaches to them, thinking about whether to play them in the order in which they were published, what crooks to use etc etc.  One thing I played with today was pairing them up with some of Gallay's Unmeasured Preludes.  Here I'm working on the premise that "preluding" was one of the many skills wind players were expected to have.  Dauprat is rather snide about it (annoyingly I don't have the quote to hand... the tome is back in London...) saying something along the lines of some players ruining performances by endless and needless preluding.  I'm quite a fan of the Gallay Préludes non mesurés  (Op. 27) and I'm wondering whether pairing a prelude with each Caprice might work....

Once it had all got too much I strolled down to the Buttes-Chaumont which is not so far away from where I'm staying.  Hopefully I'll get more opportunities to explore this park.  A friend of mine described it as more of an "English" than a "French" type of park and justified his view by saying the the Tuileries is all manicured and lolly-pop bay trees whilst the Buttes-Chaumont is more wild and romantic.  One thing I've always loved about London and missed in most other big cities is the big green royal parks where you can escape city living so it's very nice to discover the Buttes-Chaumont.

Ce commence!

So, finally, I'm here!  Well to be totally honest I arrived in Paris yesterday for the final concert in the JEG/ORR Brahms & Schumann tour.  We had quite a tricky journey (early start, delayed flight and then one of the violinists fainted on the plane - luckily we had just landed, but there's been a great deal of illness on this tour and this poor girl had picked up an ear infection) but eventually got to Paris.  I'm quite sad to see the back of this tour.  Funnily enough at the beginning of the tour I felt quite differently but with each concert I felt more confident with both the music and the instrument I was using.

This morning my dear friend and colleague Jorge Renteria helped me move from the hotel ORR were staying in to my new place.  This was especially kind of him as had 3 horns, laptop and big suitcase!  I'm renting a wonderful place off two colleagues who are away at the moment and I've really landed on my feet - it's the most incredible place.  It's in Belleville (near Jourdain) which looks to be a great district.  The house itself is incredibly light and spacious (with a soundproofed room for practice) and there are so many interesting books and CDs on the shelves which I think will be quite inspiring.

On arriving a neighbour pointed me in the direction of what looks like a weekly market where I stocked up on groceries.  Good practice of my basic French!  I also took a bit of a walk to work out where the French language school is so that I can find it tomorrow.  Quite nervous about going back to school!

Thomas Zehetmair and Paganini

Getting closer and closer to the "official" beginning of the Gallay Project.  I'm just coming towards the end of a tour with Orchestre Revolutionnaire et Romantique and John Eliot Gardiner in which we're performing Schumann Manfred Overture, Brahms Double Concerto and Schumann 3rd Symphony (Rhenish).  Quite a lot of notes for the horn section and it's been quite exhausting but a lot of fun.

The Brahms concerto was quite unknown to me prior to this project and it's been an utter revelation.  An amazing piece and fantastic soloists - Thomas Zehetmair on violin and Christian Poltera on cello.  I was rather slow in realising that Thomas Zehetmair is the same Thomas Zehetmair renowned for performing the Paganini Caprices in their entirety (duh!).  He very kindly let me pick his brains the other day and it was extremely interesting to hear his views on the Paganini works.  I have his amazing EMC recording which I love.  I was really struck by something Zehetmair wrote in the liner notes; "there's no getting away from it, in Paganini's music there has to be something of the circus ring.  The Caprices are absolutely wonderful improvisations; they all very much have a character of their own.  But they don't hit the mark unless there's also that hint of the circus".

Very spoilt

Some incredibly exciting news!  I've just been lent the most perfect instrument for the recording.  My plea to the Cité du Musique Paris hasn't gone entirely unheard.  It sounds like I might be able to "view" the Gallay instrument (and, fingers crossed, maybe even play it) but, unsurprisingly, borrowing it for the recording doesn't seem possible.

However another (for the time being nameless) institution has come to the rescue and have lent me a fabulous Raoux cor solo from roughly the same date.  I had a bit of a play on it a couple of days - reluctantly kept it short because preparing for the Gardiner/ORR Schumann/Brahms tour that starts tomorrow is really my priority.  I'm amazed at how different it feels and sounds to the Raoux orchestral instrument I own.  For a moment (logistics, as so often, rearing their ugly head) I considered the possibility of playing the cor solo for the Brahms part of the ORR programme.  I had been planning on using another instrument with a beautiful, velvety sound and momentarily thought (authenticity aside for one moment) that it'd make things simpler if I used the cor solo instead.  Especially as I only need E and D crooks for this particular work - cor solo crooks.  However almost instantly on playing the instrument it was obvious that the light, flexible timbre of the instrument wouldn't really be appropriate for Brahms.  Ah well more things to carry (or correctly more reasons to be extremely grateful for the wonderful roadie we have with ORR - keeping us and our osteopaths more happy!).

More on the new cor solo to follow!

Musée national Port-Royal des Champs

I'm extremely happy to announce the venue in which I'll be recording the Caprices.  I've recently heard from the sound engineer I'm working with (Hannelore Guittet) that it's confirmed that we will be at the Musée national Port-Royal des Champs for 3 days in late November. 
The photos of the place looks amazing and the best news is that we'll be basically living, sleeping, eating there for the whole time which makes life a lot easier in many ways. 

Concert - 1.10pm 7th of December 2010

Just a quick update.  It's just been confirmed that I'll be performing the Caprices as part of a lunch time series in Farnham later this year.

This will be part of the Music at Lunchtime series held at Farnham United Reformed Church, South Street, Farnham, Surrey.  For a map showing directions please click here.

As this concert will be after my trip to Paris and the recording it'll be interesting to see how the whole programme has "bedded" down.  The first time I played the whole set was earlier this year in April - it now seems so very long ago! It's been enjoyable keeping on coming back to the repertoire.  Bursts of activity and bursts of performances of the pieces then something completely different for a while.  For example currently I'm focussing on Schumann for a project in October (just before I go to France) and it feels a bit like weight-lifting.  I'm using a beautiful Uhlmann instrument, an original rotary horn from the 19th century.  It feels a bit "tight" at the moment ie it feels difficult to get the air through but I've got a bit of time this week to hopefully get to know it better.

A truly exciting aspect of the project is that I'm going to have a lot more time to focus on one thing.  If I include yesterday in the space of seven days I'll be playing four horns (modern Alexander 103, Raoux hand horn, Webb/Halstead baroque horn and Uhlmann rotary horn) and one of them (the Raoux) will be needed at three pitches (415, 430 and 440).  There is always a certain amount of "faff" associated with all this - even if it's only making sure you've got the right horn, in the right case, in the right place with the right bits!  So an extended period of more or less focussing on one instrument and one type of repertoire really is quite a luxury.

Other Caprices

A few weeks ago I was in Warsaw and visited the Chopin Museum.  A fascinating place, newly opened and full of so many beautiful and interesting things.  I was utterly delighted to discover the above lithograph by Lemercier there.  It features a number of famous musicians from 1832.  

Top row (left to right): Friedrich Wilhelm Kalkbrenner (pianist), Gustave Vogt (oboist), 
Middle row (left to right): Jean-Louis Tulou (flautist), Nicolas Paganini (violinist), Frederic Berr (clarinetist).  
Bottom row (left to right): Jacques-Francois Gallay (horn player),  Pierre-Marie Baillot (violinist) and Henri Herz (pianist).

Part of the reason that this was so interesting to me is that the Caprices by Gallay are so very much in the tradition of solo, virtuosic Caprices in which Paganini wrote his violin works.  And to see Gallay there as part of the same group of "virtuosi" that included Paganini seems to make this association even stronger.   As part of my project I'm very much enjoying getting to know other solo, unaccompanied repertoire for other instruments.  A few months ago I read Eric Siblin's book "The Cello Suites: J.S.Bach, Pablo Casals, and the Search for a Baroque Masterpiece" which sparked off many thoughts and was full of repertoire for other instruments which I didn't know such as the Franchomme solo Cello Caprices.  I've spoken to a number of violinist colleagues about where I should start in trying to find out more about a stylistic approach to Paganini and there have been a number of recommendations including Ivry Gitlis, James Ehnes and Thomas Zehetmair.  I've been listening a lot to the Gitlis recording and the other two are on their way.  The musical language is so similar to the Gallay Caprices though I feel Gallay seems to balance the virtuosic with the lyrical more successfully.

Dear Lovely Bate Collection...

A most fun day!  Recently Martin Perkins ( contacted me about collaborating on a podcast.  Martin has done sterling work cataloguing the instrument collection at the Birmingham Conservatoire ( and is in the process of producing a series of podcasts each of which will focus "on an instrument or group of instruments, examining changes in construction and design and how musicians and composers responded to and initiated these changes".  Martin and the Conservatoire had recently hosted the Galpin Society AGM ( and the wonderful Andy Lamb from the equally wonderful Bate Collection ( kindly invited us to Oxford for the day to play with their instruments!  The results of today will hopefully be a podcast plus a series of short videos. 

One of the many treats of today was playing on a silver Marcel-Auguste Raoux Cor-Solo from 1823.  It really was a beauty.  It made me even more intrigued about the Raoux in the Paris collection as the two instruments are probably not dissimilar.

Back to school

Just had my place at Langue Onze confirmed!  This is an integral part of my stay in Paris and I really want to take the opportunity to improve my French.  I'm afraid I suffer from the English disease of being rather pathetic at foreign languages.  Through working as a musician I have a fair smattering of French, Spanish, German and can follow Dutch and Italian but rarely have had the opportunity to really get into a language or consider myself vaguely fluent.  French is probably the best foreign language I have though I never learnt it at school.  Having studied in France on the Formation Supérieure run by the Abbaye aux Dames in Saintes ( I picked up a fair amount, also through working in France either with French orchestras or with visiting British ones.  With Sir John Eliot Gardiner and the Orchestre Revolutionnaire et Romantique (British based orchestra despite the name) we normally spend a month each year working in Paris at the Opéra Comique ( but that rarely improves my French past "Je voudrais un verre de vin rouge". 

Part of the preparation work for this project has involved me making an attempt at translation Gallay's Méthode pour le Cor (Paris circa 1845).  I've made a pretty good stab at it however one quickly realises what skills are needed in creating a good translation rather than a rough paraphrase.  Going back to French school will hopefully give me enough of a kick up the backside to really improve my French and the intensive nature of the course (daily 9am till 1pm) plus actually living in Paris will hopefully help!  I realise that a month is very little time and I shouldn't expect too much but fingers crossed!

Dear Cite de la musique...

(photo by Thierry Ollivier,

... go on, be a sport.  Please would you consider lending me this lovely cor solo?  It was made by Lucien-Joseph Raoux circa 1821 for Jacques-François Gallay and is item number E.1531 in your collection.  I'm lucky enough to have a Cor d'Orchestre by Marcel-Auguste Raoux that belonged to the horn player Oppezzi, principal horn of the Opera de Paris in the early 19th century.  However it would be a dream come true to get access to this instrument during my stay in Paris.  Instruments have so much to tell us, something I've learnt even more through having my Marcel-Auguste Raoux horn, and, as I'm specifically investigating Gallay and his horn playing, I'm certain that there will be much to learn from this particular instrument.

And wouldn't it be wonderful it I could use it for the recording of the Caprices?

Go on!  I'll take extremely good care of it!

All the best

Dotting the "i"s and crossing the "t"s

So... ploughed through various mundane tasks associated with the trip yesterday.  Now have most of the travel booked and most of the accommodation including travelling to Orleans for the association Francaise du Cor conference.  This conference is being organised by my former teacher the wonderful Claude Maury and (quelle surprise!) I'll be playing some Gallay at one of their "open mike" events.

I've also buckled down and completed my enrolment at Langue Onze - the French test as part of the application form wasn't too bad though I'm certain my written French it utterly lousy.

Things to do include finding accommodation for 15th - 19th of November and 22nd - 24th of November (following up one last lead on this), return after the recording (tempted not to book this until the venue is confirmed just in case it makes sense to leave later or even the following day) and coming and going for the Irish Baroque Orchestra patch around the 13th - 15th of November (technically this could be dealt with by the IBO office but as they'd normally expect me to be travelling to and from London we'll see...).