Dedications for Dennis Brain: A Musical Exploration of his Additions to the Repertoire of the French Horn

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2007

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Dennis Brain is considered the most well-known, and arguably the greatest horn player of the Twentieth Century. In addition to his contributions in raising the standard of horn playing, he was also a huge proponent of new music for the horn. The impressive list of works written for him includes concertos, sonatas, and chamber music. Interestingly, much is this music is largely unknown, especially outside of Britain, Brain's home country. His sudden death at the height of his career contributes to the fact that these works only received one or two performances. In addition, the number of new works combined with Brain's many performance commitments further explains why these works failed to reach a wider audience. This performance series will be an examination of these unfamiliar works with the inclusion of a work written for his father, Aubrey. The first performance in this series will be the Gordon Jacob Concerto for Horn and Strings. Written for Dennis Brain in 195 1, the work has become a standard in the horn repertoire. This is perhaps the best known and most performed work in this recital series. The premiere performance was in May 195 1 with Jacob conducting and with the success of the performance; Brain made it a regular item in his vast repertoire. The two performances to follow will explore chamber works and the works for horn and piano. The recital of chamber works will include works written for horn, piano, and violin trio. An avid champion of chamber music throughout his career, Brain formed a wind quintet which eventually expanded into a larger ensemble including the addition of a pianist. Following the success of this ensemble, the Dennis Brain Trio was formed with pianist Wilfred Perry and violinist Jean Pougnet to explore new avenues of music. The formation of this group was to allow performances of horn and violin sonatas, as well as the trios by Brahrns and Berkeley, the latter of which was written for Dennis and is featured on this series. The Lennox Berkeley Trio was commissioned by pianist Colin Horsley. He commissioned it to perform with Dennis Brain, inspired by their previous performance of the Brahms Trio, Op 40. The first performance of this work featured Brain, Horsley and violinist Manoug Parikian. The work by Ethel Smyth was originally conceived as a double concerto for horn and violin and was written for Aubrey Brain. In an attempt to reach a wider audience, the composer transcribed the work for the trio setting. Though never performed by Dennis Brain in this setting, the work is an important inclusion in this series because it highlights the legacy of not only his playing, but also of inspiring new works for the horn that Dennis Brain continued from his father. The second recital will explore sonatas and solo works. Since the largest part of Dennis Brain's career consisted of chamber music, orchestral playing, and concertos, many of these pieces with piano only had one or two performances. Featured works will include the sonata by Peter Racine Fricker, who was a classmate of Dennis Brain's as well as the Sonatine by Heinz Schreiter. These two works showcase Brain's desire to promote all types of new music, as well as the music of his friends. The two solo works by Alan Bush, "Autunm Poem" and "Trent's Broad Reaches", were written in memory of the pianist Noel Mewton-Wood. With these three performances, I hope to introduce works into the regular repertoire of horn that history has unfortunately overlooked. Dennis Brain has served as an inspiration to many generations of horn players, and the music he inspired should be a more well known part of his legacy.

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