News - 02 Apr 2024

Samuel Jacobs, French Horn soloist for the 'Beethoven, Brahms and Strauss' concert

Ask any horn player who their favourite composer is and it is likely Richard Strauss’s name would come up more often than not. The beautiful, dramatic and lyrical lines Strauss writes for the horn are an absolute joy to play (and a devil to master), and he undoubtedly sits alongside other great composers such as Gustav Mahler, Johannes Brahms and Richard Wagner as someone who really understands what the horn can do. And luckily for us, Strauss went above and beyond those other three greats and wrote not one but two concertos for the horn.

It is well-documented that the two concertos provide “bookends” to Strauss’s career, written as they were when he was 18 and 78 respectively. So I just love to focus my interpretation of his 1st concerto on the joy of youth. I try and convey the unadulterated naivety of a carefree man writing for the fun of it, before his career and two world wars began to introduce heaviness and seriousness into his works, such as in Death and Transfiguration and his sublime Four Last Songs.

Normally I only get one rehearsal with the orchestra before a concerto performance, so I’m really happy to be coming down to Dunedin early so I can connect properly with the DSO over three days of rehearsal. Not least because it means I get to spend more time in that fantastic city, seeing my nieces and sampling the best cafes outside Wellington!

There are many beautiful ensemble moments in this piece, notably some enchanting counter-melodies in the clarinet and bassoon in the 2nd movement and some intricate dove-tailing flutes in the 3rd, so I am looking forward to working with Matthias Bamert to bring those moments out of the texture.

I often tell my students that the main challenge with all horn playing is to make the music sound effortless, when of course quite the opposite is true. Orchestral solos sound at their best when the glorious tone of the horn comes soaring above the texture, so the last thing I ever want to hear from my colleagues is “Wow that sounds really hard!”

In a concerto of course this is even more the case as the technical demands are so much more difficult. So I just have to hope that the years of work going in to performing a piece like this can sound like I’m just enjoying myself – which I assure you I will be!

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