News - 19 Apr 2024

The Star article 'Horn player steps into limelight'

New Zealand Symphony Orchestra principal French horn Samuel Jacobs is accustomed to playing from the back of the "band" during concerts, so it will be a treat for him to step into the limelight this Saturday in his first outing with the Dunedin Symphony Orchestra.

Jacobs will perform as soloist in German late Romantic composer Richard Strauss’ youthful, energetic and fiendishly difficult French Horn Concerto No.1 this Saturday, at Dunedin Town Hall, in the DSO’s "Beethoven, Brahms and Strauss" concert.

Regarded as one of the most technically demanding of all French horn concertos, the 20-minute, three-movement Strauss concerto alternates "super fast" virtuosic passages in its two fast movements, with a "slow and lovely" central movement.

"It’s a real challenge to play a piece like this on the French horn, because the instrument is not really built to do what we need to do with it — it puts a lot of pressure on the tiny muscles at the corner of the mouth," Jacobs said.

"It takes stamina to support the sound when you are running out of air.

"It is a wonderful piece though, with an enthusiasm and a naive excitement to it, and it is a lot of fun to try and bring that out in performance."

Jacobs has performed the concerto several times before, including once with the NZSO, and in the United Kingdom while he was freelancing over there.

"It’s great to have such a work in the very limited repertoire of concertos for French horn — traditionally, we have had four by Mozart and two by Strauss. We look at pianists with envy," he said.

"Fortunately, there are now more French horn concertos being written by contemporary composers."

Along with his first performance with the DSO, Jacobs is looking forward to performing with guest conductor Matthias Bamert also for the first time.

"I have heard he is a very nice guy, as well as being an internationally acclaimed conductor, so I think it will be great," he said.

Jacobs is also looking forward to returning to the Dunedin Town Hall, renowned among orchestral players and classical musicians for its great acoustics.

"I think the Strauss concerto is going to sound really good in there."

Samuel Jacobs has been principal French horn with the NZSO on and off for the past 10 years, having started with the orchestra in 2012, and then departing to freelance in London and the UK for a time. He returned in 2016, and has been with the orchestra.

As the NZSO maintains a busy programme of concerts, Jacobs’ had played in its performances of Mahler’s Fifth Symphony in Auckland and Wellington earlier this month, so the timing of this weekend’s Dunedin concert was ideal for him to make the trip.

Saturday’s concert, to be held from 7.30pm at the town hall will feature Beethoven’s Prometheus Overture, Richard Strauss’ French Horn Concerto No. 1, and Brahms’ Symphony No. 3 and Hungarian Dance No. 1.

- A free pre-concert talk will be given by Emeritus Prof Peter Adams on April 20, from 6.40pm to 7pm, at the Dunedin Town Hall complex.

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