English Horn Expressions

Elizabeth Starr Masoudnia English horn

Kevin Arthur Jr. composer
Lera Auerbach composer
Robert Maggio composer
Steve Heitzeg composer
Jenni Brandon composer
Behzad Ranjbaran composer
Gilles Silvestrini composer
Adolphus Hailstork composer
Alyssa Morris composer
Michael Isaacson composer
Ayser Vancin composer
Michael Berkeley composer
Vincent Persichetti composer
Clare Grundman composer

Release Date: February 3, 2023
Catalog #: NV6500
Format: Digital
21st Century
Solo Instrumental
English Horn

Deeply expressive and melodic, the English horn boasts a unique texture in the woodwind family. On Elizabeth Masoudnia’s aptly titled ENGLISH HORN EXPRESSIONS, the instrument has found itself in the spotlight, guided by Masoudnia’s soothing tone, and lending a distinguished voice to the works of several composers. The vast lyrical range of the English horn shines throughout this album, emphasized by Masoudnia’s adept artist skill set. Containing works inspired by paintings and poetry, works written explicitly for Masoudnia, and more, the Philadelphia native’s Navona Records debut carries a healthy balance of sentimentality and musical prowess.

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Track Listing & Credits

# Title Composer Performer
01 The River Kevin Arthur Jr. Elizabeth Starr Masoudnia, English horn 5:11
02 The Prayer Lera Auerbach Elizabeth Starr Masoudnia, English horn 5:26
03 Dance on the Volcano Robert Maggio Elizabeth Starr Masoudnia, English horn 5:28
04 Flowering Prairie (Crocus) for English horn Steve Heitzeg Elizabeth Starr Masoudnia, English horn 2:22
05 In the City at Night Jenni Brandon Elizabeth Starr Masoudnia, English horn 5:46
06 Grave Lamentoso Behzad Ranjbaran Elizabeth Starr Masoudnia, English horn 3:14
07 Sentier dans les bois Gilles Silvestrini Elizabeth Starr Masoudnia, English horn 2:06
08 Le Ballet Espagnol Gilles Silvestrini Elizabeth Starr Masoudnia, English horn 3:43
09 Siciliana Adolphus Hailstork Elizabeth Starr Masoudnia, English horn 5:42
10 Jimson Weed Alyssa Morris Elizabeth Starr Masoudnia, English horn 3:14
11 Chants de la Terre Ayser Vançin Elizabeth Starr Masoudnia, English horn 3:51
12 Reveil Ayser Vançin Elizabeth Starr Masoudnia, English horn 2:55
13 Snake Michael Berkeley Elizabeth Starr Masoudnia, English horn 4:16
14 A Quiet Prayer Michael Isaacson Elizabeth Starr Masoudnia, English horn 4:32
15 Parable for Solo English Horn (Parable XV) op.128 Vincent Persichetti Elizabeth Starr Masoudnia, English horn 3:16
16 Evening Song Clare Grundman Elizabeth Starr Masoudnia, English horn 2:34

Recorded at Silvertone Studios in Ardmore PA
Producer and Engineer Alfred Goodrich

Mastering Melanie Montgomery

Executive Producer Bob Lord

A&R Director Brandon MacNeil
A&R Chris Robinson

VP of Production Jan Košulič
Audio Director Lucas Paquette

VP, Design & Marketing Brett Picknell
Art Director Ryan Harrison
Design Edward A. Fleming
Publicity Patrick Niland, Brett Iannucci

Artist Information

Elizabeth Starr Masoudnia

English Horn

Elizabeth Starr Masoudnia, solo English horn of the Philadelphia Orchestra since 1995, has toured the globe with the Philadelphia Orchestra to wide critical acclaim with many of the world’s finest conductors. She has premiered several solo English horn pieces written explicitly for her, including concertos by Behzad Ranjbaran and Nicholas Maw, and David Ludwig’s Piccola Notturna for English horn, harp, and string quintet.

Kevin Arthur Jr.

composer

Kevin Arthur Jr. (b. 2004) recently graduated from the Philadelphia High School for Creative and Performing arts and is now attending the New School College of Performing Arts as a composition major studying with Valerie Coleman.

Lera Auerbach

composer

Lera Auerbach, born Valeria Lvovna Averbakh, is a Soviet-born (1973) American classical composer and concert pianist. She was born to a Jewish family in Chelyabinsk, a city in the Ural Mountains, and is a graduate of the Juilliard school and the Hanover University of Music, Drama, and Media.

Robert Maggio

composer

Robert Maggio (b. 1964) is a prolific composer of music for the concert hall, ballet, modern dance, musical theater, and incidental music. A graduate of Yale University and the University of Pennsylvania (Ph.D.), he also is the professor of music theory and composition at West Chester University (1990-present).

Steve Heitzeg

composer

Emmy award-winning composer Steve Heitzeg is known for evocative music that celebrates nature and addresses social and ecological issues with vision and purpose. He is an American composer (b.1959) based in Minnesota whose works include compositions for orchestra, chamber ensemble, ballet, and film.

Photo by Terry Gydesen

Jenni Brandon

composer

Jenni Brandon (b.1977) is a composer of vocal, choral, chamber, and orchestral music. Her work has been described as “some of the most imaginative recent chamber music for winds,” and her style is often influenced by nature and her surroundings.

Behzad Ranjbaran

composer

Behzad Ranjbaran is known for music which is both evocative and colorful, and also strong in structural integrity and form. Born in 1995 in Tehran, Iran, Ranjbaran’s musical education started early when he entered the Tehran Music Conservatory at the age of 9. He came to the United States in 1974 to attend Indiana University and received his doctorate in composition from The Juilliard School, where he currently serves on the faculty.

Gilles Silvestrini

composer

Gilles Silvestrini (b. June 4, 1961 in Givet) is a French composer of contemporary music and an oboist. His compositions for the oboe have been sought after because of their virtuosic nature, a good option to test advanced oboists technical abilities and can be used as an option for an unaccompanied programmatic etude in a recital setting. One of his most famous works is the Six Etudes for Solo Oboe, which is a set of concert etudes — each inspired and named after a specific French impressionist painting.

Adolphus Hailstork

composer

A native of Rochester NY, Adolphus Hailstork (b.1941) is a prolific composer of instrumental and vocal music and has held several positions at prominent institutions of higher learning. He currently resides in Virginia Beach VA and is Professor of Music and Eminent Scholar at Old Dominion University in Norfolk VA.

Alyssa Morris

composer

Alyssa Morris (b.1984) is an award winning oboist and composer. She is the professor of oboe and music theory at Kansas State University and received her B.M. and M.M. in oboe performance from Brigham Young University. She resides in Manhattan KS with her husband and her two children.

photo by Kristen Schwavis, Captured Moments Photography, 2021

Ayser Vançin

composer

Born in 1949, Ayser Vançin has been influenced by many cultures since her childhood in Istanbul. At school she played oboe, piano, and violin and also studied harmony and composition at the Istanbul Academy of Music. She later went to school in Paris and Geneva. She has settled in Geneva, where she teaches chamber music and the oboe at the Conservatoire Populaire de Musique. Chants de la Terre and Reveil are the response of Vancin to two poems by Nazim Hikmet (1902-1963), a Turkish writer, humanist, and poet.

Michael Berkeley

composer

Michael Berkeley, (b.1948) Baron Berkeley of Knighton, is an English composer, broadcaster on music, and member of the House of Lords. Snake was first performed by Nicholas Daniel on June 5, 1990 at the Natural History Museum, London, at a concert to mark the 150th anniversary of the granting of the Royal title to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The performance was preceded by a reading of D.H. Lawrence’s “The Snake,” the poem which in part inspired the piece.

Michael Isaacson

composer

Michael Isaacson Ph.D (b. Brooklyn NY 1946) enjoys a distinguished career as a composer, conductor, producer, and educator. His pioneering book entitled “Jewish Music as Midrash: What Makes Music Jewish?” is in its 3rd edition. In Los Angeles, Isaacson composed and conducted original scores and arranged for many well known television series including The Bob Hope show, Hawaii Five-O, the Nanny, and Curb Your Enthusiasm. In 2008, Isaacson affiliated with TrevCo music to produce a wealth of innovative and skillfully crafted double reed music. A Quiet Prayer is one of those pieces and also has versions for oboe and oboe d’amore.

Vincent Ludwig Persichetti

composer

Vincent Ludwig Persichetti (1915-1987) was an American composer, teacher, and pianist. An important musical educator and writer, he was known for his integration of various new ideas in musical composition into his own work and teaching, as well as for training many noted composers in composition at the Juilliard School.

Clare Grundman

composer

Clare Grundman (1913-1996) received the majority of his musical training in his native Ohio. His primary instrument in high school and college was the clarinet, although he also played several other woodwind instruments. He got his master’s degree from OSU and then moved to New York where composed, arranged, and conducted. He continued his musical training by studying composing with Paul Hindemith, and Leonard Bernstein chose him to create the band transcription of his Overture to Candide. Several of Grundman’s chamber music compositions were never published during his lifetime. Among these is the Evening Song for Solo English Horn, published for the first time by Prairie Dawg Press in 2014.

Notes

This innovative album of pieces exclusively for solo English horn spotlights composers from the 20th and 21st centuries. The works recorded are inspired by elements of the human experience that have captivated people since the beginning of time: art, literature, dance, nature, and prayer. They include Masoudnia’s previous commissions and new pieces from Adolphus Hailstork, Robert Maggio, and Kevin Arthur, Jr.

The motivation for this project grew from the 2020 pandemic and a desire to expand the traditional English horn solo repertory to be more representative of composers of varying backgrounds, genders, and ages. During the pandemic, orchestras worldwide shut down, and it was unclear when players would be working again or if performing ensembles would ever be in business in the same way. Only able to practice at home, Masoudnia reflected on 25 years of English horn playing with The Philadelphia Orchestra. Inspired by the pandemic’s burst of creative activity on social media and by English horn player Jacqueline LeClair’s solo recording Music for English Horn Alone, Masoudnia began to compile an album reflecting the year that passed. She sought to explore and develop the repertory by commissioning pieces and adapting oboe works to the English horn. Some of these pieces were specifically written for a player trained in the Tabuteau tradition of oboe and English horn playing. This recording brings together new and rarely-heard pieces, and various perspectives for the possibilities on the English horn played in this style.

Masoudnia writes, “In deciding what to play, I realized that as the English hornist of The Philadelphia Orchestra, my talents and interests lay in the Romantic repertoire onward, with a particular emphasis on the beauty of sound and phrasing. I believe the English horn is, artistically, often most effective alone — as demonstrated in pieces such as Hector Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique, Manuel de Falla’s The Three-Cornered Hat, and Richard Wagner’s opera Tristan und Isolde. I also have observed that it is difficult to find performing opportunities as an English horn player, and there are few, if any, études written specifically for the instrument. I hope that students and professionals will be inspired to practice and perform these pieces, and that today’s composers will continue to write challenging and diverse solos for the English horn in various genres.”

Background

The English horn is a double-reed wind instrument dating from the 18th century. Like the other members of the oboe family, the English horn evolved from the shawms of the Middle Ages. Its immediate predecessor was the oboe da caccia (hunting oboe), a curved tenor oboe pitched in F with a flaring bell, reminiscent of the horns seen played by angels in religious artwork of the times. The pear-shaped bell of these early instruments may have given the English horn its name — in the German language of the time, the word “englisch” meant “angelic.” In France, the instrument was known as a cor anglais. The English horn continued to improve in design throughout the 19th century, with more keys added and a straightening of the lower part of the instrument. The result was an instrument more manageable by the performer and with better resonance than its predecessors.

When the English horn was first incorporated into orchestras, it was as a doubling instrument played by an oboist. Surprisingly, there was little use of the instrument in the works of the early 19th century German composers. Nineteenth-century German Romantic composers rediscovered the English horn and it received a more prominent role in the lush orchestral writing of Richard Wagner, Richard Strauss, and Gustav Mahler. The instrument’s unique sound has also made it popular over the past two centuries for exotic and pastoral musical effects. Throughout the 20th and 21st centuries, the English horn has remained an essential member of the woodwind section.

As orchestras have expanded, specialists in English horn have emerged, along with an abundance of new works highlighting the instrument’s full capabilities. The album introduces new English horn pieces to players and listeners and shows the range and effectiveness of the English horn as a solo instrument.

– Nancy Plum

See the piece played and Arthur and Masoudnia interviewed here:

The Prayer is a dark, intense five minute work for English horn alone. It was commissioned by Candis Threlkeld and written in 1996.

Dance on the Volcano was commissioned by Masoudnia and is steeped in the music of Sicily, fusing the sounds of the island’s folk music with its contemporary jazz. In particular, the melodies and rhythms in this piece were influenced by listening to field recordings of Sicilian folk songs (collected by American musicologist Alan Lomax) and the vibrant music of Sicilian jazz musician Enzo Rao. Sicily’s Mt. Etna — Europe’s largest and most active volcano — provided the initial spark of inspiration, imparting unforgettable memories of Maggio’s trek to its summit in 2009.

Composed in honor of and dedicated to Charles and Harriet Mason and their perennial dedication to nature, Flowering Prairie (Crocus) is a celebration of the flowering spirit (plant and animal); the indigenous prairie of Minnesota; the wild and the free… From seed to blossom, the flowers heal us.

In the City at Night was written at the request of Ryan Zwhalen. Brandon wanted to write him a piece that uses the lovely, lyrical range of the English horn while at the same time composing something rhythmically fun to play. In the City at Night is at times playful and fast — like many lights blinking on just after dusk in the city. At other times it is quiet and serene like the city streets that are empty in the early hours of dawn. In creating this world, Brandon wanted the listener to be left with thoughts and impressions of a city after dark, and the lone voice of the English horn telling the story of a night adventure on the city streets.

Grave Lamentoso is the slow movement of Ranjbaran’s “Concerto for English horn and Strings” which was commissioned by Network for New Music for the occasion of the centennial concerto of Vincent Persichetti, Ranjbaran’s former teacher at the Juilliard School. This movement was written for English horn alone, and in his instructions for the piece, Ranjbaran indicated that this movement could be performed on its own.

A Siciliana is a dance, song, or instrumental piece in 6/8 or 12/8 time, evoking a pastoral mood. This piece was commissioned by Harold and Emily Starr in honor of their daughter, Elizabeth Starr Masoudnia

Jimson Weed is one of the Collision Etudes for solo oboe by Morris, which was inspired by and composed as a response to Silvestrini’s etude collection, 6 Etudes for Oboe. Collision Etudes is based on six paintings by female American painters. America is a melting pot, a beautiful “collision” of cultures and beliefs. Collision Etudes highlights a collision of contemporary art styles, while bringing awareness to several significant female American artists. While written for oboe, Masoudnia chose to perform this piece on English horn. It is inspired by the painting of the same name by Georgia O’Keefe.

The poem which in part inspired the piece.

Snake
By D. H. Lawrence
A snake came to my water-trough
On a hot, hot day, and I in pyjamas for the heat,
To drink there.

In the deep, strange-scented shade of the great dark carob tree
I came down the steps with my pitcher
And must wait, must stand and wait, for there he was at the trough
before me.

He reached down from a fissure in the earth-wall in the gloom
And trailed his yellow-brown slackness soft-bellied down, over
the edge of the stone trough
And rested his throat upon the stone bottom,
And where the water had dripped from the tap, in a small clearness,
He sipped with his straight mouth,
Softly drank through his straight gums, into his slack long body,
Silently.

Someone was before me at my water-trough,
And I, like a second-comer, waiting.

He lifted his head from his drinking, as cattle do,
And looked at me vaguely, as drinking cattle do,
And flickered his two-forked tongue from his lips, and mused
a moment,
And stooped and drank a little more,
Being earth-brown, earth-golden from the burning bowels
of the earth
On the day of Sicilian July, with Etna smoking.

The voice of my education said to me
He must be killed,
For in Sicily the black, black snakes are innocent, the gold
are venomous.

And voices in me said, If you were a man
You would take a stick and break him now, and finish him off.

But must I confess how I liked him,
How glad I was he had come like a guest in quiet, to drink
at my water-trough
And depart peaceful, pacified, and thankless,
Into the burning bowels of this earth?

Was it cowardice, that I dared not kill him?
Was it perversity, that I longed to talk to him?
Was it humility, to feel so honoured?
I felt so honoured.

And yet those voices:
If you were not afraid, you would kill him!

And truly I was afraid, I was most afraid,
But even so, honoured still more
That he should seek my hospitality
From out the dark door of the secret earth.

He drank enough
And lifted his head, dreamily, as one who has drunken,
And flickered his tongue like a forked night on the air, so black,
Seeming to lick his lips,
And looked around like a god, unseeing, into the air,
And slowly turned his head,
And slowly, very slowly, as if thrice adream,
Proceeded to draw his slow length curving round
And climb again the broken bank of my wall-face.

And as he put his head into that dreadful hole,
And as he slowly drew up, snake-easing his shoulders,
and entered farther,
A sort of horror, a sort of protest against his withdrawing into
that horrid black hole,
Deliberately going into the blackness, and slowly drawing
himself after,
Overcame me now his back was turned.

I looked round, I put down my pitcher,
I picked up a clumsy log
And threw it at the water-trough with a clatter.

I think it did not hit him,
But suddenly that part of him that was left behind convulsed
in an undignified haste,
Writhed like lightning, and was gone
Into the black hole, the earth-lipped fissure in the wall-front,
At which, in the intense still noon, I stared with fascination.

And immediately I regretted it.
I thought how paltry, how vulgar, what a mean act!
I despised myself and the voices of my accursed human education.

And I thought of the albatross,
And I wished he would come back, my snake.

For he seemed to me again like a king,
Like a king in exile, uncrowned in the underworld,
Now due to be crowned again.

And so, I missed my chance with one of the lords
Of life.
And I have something to expiate:
A pettiness.

Taormina

Persichetti began his set of Parables in 1965 and completed them in 1987, the year of his death. One of his publisher’s representatives described Parables as being like Ballades or one movement works, often for solo instruments, that make references to other works of the composer. Persichetti, in describing these same works, referred to them as “non-programmatic musical essays about a single germinal idea. They convey a meaning indirectly by the use of comparison or analogies.”