Forty Variations on an Original Theme CPH027
Like technical exercises, studies help to sharpen specific skills. Beyond that, they offer players expressive and intellectual challenges that explore the poetry as well as the grammar of music. The ‘horn call’ from Wagner’s Siegfried and the Prologue and Epilogue from Britten’s Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings demonstrate how evocative the sound of a solo French horn can be. Mindful of such examples, I have conceived this theme and its variations as real music, each item having its unique form and spirit as well as its specific technical focus.
The volume offers:
- an overall musical foundation that links all forty studies. The first piece is called Theme. Each of the studies is a variation on the theme, deriving its character from one or more of the theme’s melodic, harmonic or rhythmic features. Some of these connections are included in the analyses, to be found in the last two pages of this volume;
- balanced attention to the full range of the instrument, from written pedal F to high c’’. Any excursion above or below this range is printed as an option (ossia);
- a division of the forty studies into eight groups, each group comprising five variations that attend principally to a particular technical feature, for example tonguing, slurring or use of the diaphragm;
- a focus on the committed and experienced player of the French horn.
The general commentary that precedes each of the eight technical groups includes notes on interpretation and technique that are relevant to the five variations within the group. The variations are not presented in order of difficulty overall but, within each subsection, they are graded by technical challenge, the least taxing being placed first.
When these pieces are offered for performance or audition, they should be regarded as variations. When they are used for pedagogy, teachers and students might prefer to call them studies.