Saturday, October 25, 2014


Last Sunday evening, Dan and I attended the Hungarian premiere of Olivier Messiaen's Des Canyons aux étoiles.  Concerto Budapest performed the piece at the stunning grand hall of the Liszt Academy. It was a wonderful performance.  I have studied Messiaen's works in school but this was the first time I have heard one of his orchestral pieces live. My focus was naturally on the horns.  Yet my focus often turned to the piano and percussion as well.  The percussion had their own set-up in the choir loft of the hall and two percussionists even performed at the front of the stage.  The pianist was a very young gentleman. I thought he was fantastic! The piano part is very prominent with many solos. One of the other main solos is an entire movement for solo horn. (This movement is actually the only part of the piece which I had heard before.) The solo was played by Szabolcs Zempléni.  We had heard him play the Ligeti Horn Trio just two days prior.  I was inspired by his performance.  He played entirely from memory.  The grand hall at the Liszt Academy has wonderful acoustics. His high notes had amazing resonance.  The horn section also impressed me.  Just like the last time I heard Concerto Budapest, I was struck by their balance and blend. The most unfortunate part of the performance is that program does not list the personnel. Who are these horn players? I want to know more about them! Can I take lessons with them? Des Canyons aux étoiles begins with a horn solo so I was hooked from the start. The first horn, shown on the right in the picture below, was playing a type of horn that I have never seen.  (I apologize for the horrific picture from my phone)

In my dream world, the program would list the personnel but also other fascinating information such as the make/model of their instruments.  Since Sunday I've been trying to find information about this type of horn but I still have no idea. It is not the traditional Kruspe/Geyer wrap horn. Nor is it a Vienna horn. Whatever it is, the first horn player and this instrument had an amazing sound.  It was incredibly full, rich and smooth. It is the way I hope to sound. I would be curious to hear it up close and perhaps try this instrument myself.

Here is a recording so you can hear the piece yourself. If you have a free hour and a half, go ahead and listen to the entire piece.  My favorite moments are the following:

The opening horn solos in "The Desert" - 0:00 - 3:48
The solo horn movement "Appel interstellaire (Interstellar Call)" - 27:18 - 35:02
The end - 1:06:49 to the end
1:06:49-1:10:50 = Perhaps Messiaen's music here inspired the NBC theme and the T-Mobile ditty. ;)
1:10:50 - This is the amazing unison horn line. It gloriously rang through the hall!

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