Author: Van Dreel, Lydia
Date published: February 1, 2012
The French Connection. Eldon Matlick, horn; Kayla Paulk, piano. Mark Masters 9221-MCD, available at markcustom.com.
Contents: Caprice, Robert Planel; Chanson Du Forestier, Guillaume Balay; Air de Chasse, Louis Piantoni; Sonata for Horn and Piano, Xavier Leroux; Pour Diane, Jacques Charpentier; Chassacor, Roger Boutry; La Chasse de Saint Hubert, Henri BŁsser; Sur les Cimes, Bozza; Andante et Presto, Gabriel NoŽlGallon; Sarabande, Marcel Poot; Chant Lointain, Bozza; Cantilene et Divertissements, Alfred Desenclos.
Dr. Eldon Matlick, Professor of Horn at the University of Oklahoma, has recorded a wonderful collection of undeservedly obscure French music. As he writes in his liner notes, Eldon's goal in championing these works is "to inspire others to program these delightful works on recital." Indeed, each piece has a unique flavor and charm, and Eldon, capably supported by pianist Kayla Paulk, gets at the heart of each of these gems on each track of the recording.
The disc opens with Robert Planel's Caprice, opening with an heroic fanfare, the melody then moving through many moods in rhapsodic fashion. Guillaume Balay's Chanson du Forestier takes the listener on a surprisingly colorful and introspective journey. Swiss composer Louis Piantoni's Air de Chasse is already a familiar tune to many hornists. As Matlick writes in his liner notes, this piece explores the notoriously fickle midlow range of the horn. This challenging feature, as well as the complexity of the dialogue between horn and piano, makes this piece deceptively difficult.
Xavier Leroux's Sonata for Horn and Piano is one continuous movement, a tour de force of dexterity and endurance. According to Matlick, the Chambers edition, published by International Music, indicates places the performer can opt to omit some of the notes. Jacques Charpentier's Pour Diane is a hauntingly beautiful, brooding piece; again, more familiar to hornists than some of the other works on this disc. In this track, Matlick's eloquent lyrical style is at its finest.
Roger Boutry's Chassacor is a rhythmically complex rollick through lush Hollywood-style harmonies. Henri BŁsser's La Chasse de Saint Hubert is dedicated by the composer to Louis-Edouard Vuillermoz, principal hornist with the Paris opera and horn professor at the Conservatoire di Musique in Paris. Saint Hubert, the patron saint of the huntsman, is often the subject of horn character pieces, and any listener familiar with Eugene Bozza's En Foret, will find similar tunes and character in this piece. The composer waits until the end of the piece to voice the traditional setting of the St. Hubert melody, rendering the whole piece more, as Matlick writes, of "a set of variations and a theme, rather than a statement of melody and spinning out of ideas from that origin."
The two tracks on the disc by Bozza, Sur les Cimes and Chant Lointain, are both pictorial essays, evocative of their titles. Sur les Cimes translates to "on the peaks (summit)" and Chant Lointain translates to "distant song." Both pieces require great lyricism and virtuosity from the soloist. As Matlick notes, Bozza quotes himself in the piece, as well as a few famous horn repertoire moments.
Gabriel NoŽl-Gallon's Andante et Presto opens with a stunning, dramatic fanfare, and gradually transitions into a hunting horn-inspired presto with a clever metric-modulation accelerando to the piece's happy conclusion. Belgian composer Marcel Poot's Sarabande is a simple, beautiful melody, with a sumptuous piano accompaniment. Alfred Desenclos's Cantilťne et Divertissements is a darkly expressionist work with truly virtuosic elements, which Matlick negotiates with ease. Matlick will surely achieve his aim to inspire more performances of these richly varied and beautiful works from the French tradition. LvD