Bob Sherman Hello everybody. I'm Bob Sherman. And tonight our summer encore festival recalls the studio session six months ago when Steven Cohen and friends played French horn music of Beethoven Brahms and more on what now is the twenty one hundred and sixty eighth edition of the McGraw family's Young Artist Showcase.
Bob Sherman Just as WQXR would be the same without the showcase. I like to think and the showcase wouldn't be the same without the ongoing generosity of the Harold W. McGraw junior Family Foundation the symphonic concerts we love so much would be infinitely diminished without the gleaming sounds of the French horn. That said we don't often think of it as a solo instrument but our guest today Steven Cohen is doing his best to change that misguided impression. For starters he'll be joined here by pianist Martha locker for a sonata by no less a compositional icon than Ludwig van Beethoven. First movement of Beethoven's Sonata for horn and piano and a bright start to our studio visit with Steven Cohen and Martha Locker.
Bob Sherman So come on over and say hello Steven. First of all before we get to any discussions of you in the horn and all that stuff. Tell us about Beethoven and his horn sonata. I mean we don't know anything about it really. Why did you write a horn sonata.
Steven Cohen So Beethoven in Eighteen Hundred wrote the Sonata for the virtuoso horn player Giovanni Punto. Punto was incredibly well-known especially through out that area of Europe with Beethoven pretty much solely being known within Vienna where he was living at the time.
Now is this we're talking about natural horn natural horn. Yeah. So no valves so you don't feel guilty using valves.
I have performed it both ways. I think there is a certain purity to performing it on the natural horn as well as there is also an ease of dexterity on the natural horn because everything is pretty much lying within the context of what Beethoven wrote outside of adjusting the hand for partials that don't per say exist within the natural harmonic series. But with this work and Beethoven performing it outside of his known realm of Vienna he took it to Pest with Punto and a critic wrote of the work "Who is this Beethoven. His name is not known to us of course Punto is very well known." So a spry young Beethoven in eighteen hundred just at the beginning of what would be a tremendous career obviously indeed.
Bob Sherman All right. Now tell us about you and the horn because I mentioned earlier we don't think of the horn as a solo instrument. Yeah, the Mozart concertos and all that... But I mean when's the last time anybody who's been to a horn recital. I can't I can't remember.
Steven Cohen So they happen you know they happen here in New York on rare occasion I've been to a couple myself at Wild recital hall as well as you know there's a vast plethora of incredible talent within Juilliard Madison Manhattan School of Music. So there are always things happening.
But I you know I would agree that most of the time we are seeing recitals performed you know seldom...
Bob Sherman Or they are performed by people whose basic career is built in orchestral playing or chamber music or elsewhere.
Steven Cohen Absolutely.
Bob Sherman So what about you. Are you a solo horn player.
Steven Cohen I wouldn't know really what to say of myself. I am I'm very fortunate to have a wonderful diverse career as a freelance musician here in New York and as we all get to travel playing with numerous Broadway shows but as of late I have been given the opportunity to play recitals at universities and workshops that have allowed me to present myself with these works as well as others we will hear. To really showcase the horn as the horn. Nothing else.
Bob Sherman Right. And Martha locker. Guess what is it like to play with a horn. Man you probably don't get to do that very often either.
Martha Locker Well actually I have had quite a few opportunities to play with both horn and other brass instruments. It's very different from accompanying say a string instrument. The visual cues of working with a horn player are different. But I love the timbre the way you can match it with this. The range of the piano and the blend that is possible is really amazing.
Bob Sherman Now you're on faculty collaborative pianos at NYU and Juilliard. So I guess there are a lot of student players that you get to work.
Martha Locker Sure. And that's how I got into playing with horn players and was through the work at the schools that I do. But I think more than in the past Hornets are attempting to expand the solo repertoire. And I think there are a lot more opportunities for solo horn than there may used to have been.
Bob Sherman OK. Well let's proceed to a piece that you tell us is by Eugene Watts.
Steven Cohen So we are going to continue with Eugene boats is on foray in the forest and meet in the forest. Written in 1941 for the Paris Conservatory as an examination piece it's kind of the tour de force within the standard repertoire. It has a little bit of everything it goes top to bottom and the really fun thing about this work is boats a hearkens back to the horn itself. He quotes st. hubert's fanfare saying you were being the patron saint of the hunt as well as and please excuse my Latin. The Victamae Pascali laudis, which is an Easter hymn within the Catholic Church.
Bob Sherman All right if you will we'll head to the forest with Eugene Botha. This again studio performances here by Steven Cohen and Martha laugher. And if I were on the panel I think I would let Steven go on into the Paris Conservatory after his performance of Eugene Bullard says oh for Ray and our pianist here mother locker. All right.
Bob Sherman Come on over and tell us since you didn't go to the Paris Conservatory I assume where did you pick up your horn virtuosity.
Steven Cohen So I began my education at Mannes college back when it was still on the Upper West Side and I spent two years there studying with Phil Myers former principal horn of the New York Philharmonic and had a strange turn of events where after my sophomore year I had the opportunity to play principal horn on the new 25th anniversary production of Labor's Rob which was coming over from the United Kingdom. I had wanted to play that show in that chair ever since I was 11 years old so it was one of those opportunities I couldn't exactly turn down.
Bob Sherman But then the drive you crazy doing the same piece over and over every day and twice on Wednesday?
Steven Cohen You know for for me, I loved every single minute of it because every show was different. I actually got to do the tour with my wife a horn player I had met at Manus and she is now a nurse but she is from Nebraska and I chose to continue my education at the University of Nebraska Lincoln completing my bachelors and getting a masters as well as spent a year as a doctoral fellow at the University of California Santa Barbara.
Bob Sherman OK so you've travelled around the country quite a bit.
Steven Cohen Quite a bit and I don't tire of it.
Bob Sherman Now obviously one of your missions is look we've heard Beethoven we've heard but we're going to get to Brahms in a little bit but I think it's safe to say that you want to bring the horn into the 21st century and make it alive and well here. Absolutely. And well one of the ways you've done it is with the new recording that I'm told is on something odd it's called Siegfried's call artists series I guess.
Steven Cohen So it's a new C.D. of various species many of which you know most of which you've commissioned so the album is entitled cruise control it is named after one of the works on the album and the album is dedicated to creating new major works for the horn. In the case of this particular project I have the incredible honor and privilege of collaborating with five American composers to create these five works so they're all premiere. They are all premieres.
Bob Sherman Wow. Okay now one piece that I heard from the recording that I asked you to play because I thought it was terrific as the finale of a sonata by Gina Gilley. And that's the name new to me also. So.
Steven Cohen Gina is the horn professor at Pacific Lutheran University just outside of the Seattle Tacoma region. She is a fantastic horn player and even more so a fantastic composer. I got exposed to her music while attending a workshop in. Northwest region. A few years back and when I was considering this project and what I wanted to do I said you know obviously composers comes in all all shapes styles what have you and I really felt that it was important to include women because women are just composers you know and Gina is featured along with Jenny Brandon on this album and Gina's work is a sonata that takes an idea and transforms it through styles and genres so she begins the work with a very traditional romantic style opening and transforms that theme through a very grew know like melody in the second movement and then takes a complete turn and we end up with an Afro Cuban Rondo at the end so she's stuck within the styles of sonata form first movement you know very a B.A. style second movement and third movement Rondo but completely transforming with our styles and it's such a great treat.
Bob Sherman Wonderful. Well you have said you would do the finale for us. Absolutely. All right let's take our little journey here in the studio again. We're talking about a performance by Steven Cohen and Martha Walker. In this instance the finale of The Horn sonata by Gina Gillie.
Bob Sherman What a delight. It's not often I encounter a piece new piece by a composer that I know nothing about and to find it so jaunty and so full of fun and such delightful energy so I am very pleased to make the acquaintance of the horn sonata by Gina Gilley. We have heard the finale played here in the studio by Steven Cohen and at the piano Martha locker. Well we have much more to come. There's another sonata that I know nothing about. And the aforementioned Brahms trio that we will dip into. So let's take a short break here from the McGraw family's Young Artist Showcase. We'll be right back.
Our guests today in the McGraw families Young Artist Showcase horn player Steven Cohen pianist Martha Lorca and in due course we will meet violinist show on McGarry Steven. We have grown up knowing that the horn is a very difficult instrument. I've always suspected that's propaganda put out by horn players but the way you've been playing and running up and scales and all those trills you were doing and I didn't even know how you were going to do those timbre changes. OK. In the middle you put in a mute but the rest of the timbre changes the first ones where you just did it somehow. Can you tell us a little what the horn is up about...?
Steven Cohen The you know the origins of the horn go all the way back to in many scholars opinion to the shofar. It's has connections to the hunt and so many different attributes. So you know with the boats that we hear we hear the hunt in there and even in the Beethoven using those open partials so you know the horn excuse me what's my use an open partial and open partial means notes that when you push down a valve on the horn it just gives you the notes that are natural to that series so plain old harmonics.
Bob Sherman I see OK go ahead.
Steven Cohen You know, now in this day and age we have all sorts of fancy contraptions for our instruments and a variety of different makers and styles of the horn you know from its origins as an orchestral instrument in operas in the sixteen hundreds to now has really grown a lot. But just for that one item that I mentioned can you show us how you play a different timbre without putting in a mute or doing so a lot of it comes down to just how you approach the horn how you use or air so I can play something really loud. [Plays horn]
Versus changing my air or how I went you know and using my lips to make it. [plays horn]
To really produce something completely different so your hand does what inside the lawn so the hand primarily controls the pitch of the instrument as it is coming out with the horn. It's a lot of people think you're just sticking it up there and it's all gross because the spit comes out the now but you know the hand plays a crucial role because it is what allows us especially in historical period playing to change notes. And we also do that here in the boat so you heard stopped horn where the horn is closed off.
Bob Sherman Can you again show me what you mean. So.
Bob Sherman I see so that's created by the way your hand is positioned them.
Steven Cohen My hand leaves the sound nowhere to go.
Bob Sherman I see. Huh. Fascinating. All right. Now tell us about the new work we're going to hear.
Steven Cohen So the next work we're gonna hear is the Sonata for horn by James Naigus. We're gonna hear the first and third movement. James is a very close friend and colleague and I was exposed to James's music when I was at Nebraska and he is one of the most prolific young composers I've ever had the privilege to meet. He is also probably the most well known name within the horn community. His works are incredible and are played throughout the world whether it be for Horn alone horn and piano horn ensemble. I approached James about writing this work almost a year and a half ago and really wanted to have something to record and say James you know this is you're really at the top of your game you need to write a sonata. I feel a sonata as was the norm of the day back in the era of Beethoven and Brahms Sonata was your crowning jewel for a solo instrument. So I said to James you need to do this. And here we are.
Bob Sherman And he did it.
Steven Cohen He did it.
Bob Sherman All right. We will hear it for the first time on WQXR I'm sure and definitely here on the unguarded showcase. This is the sonata of James Negus again first and third movements and again performance here in the studio by Steven Cohen and Martha locker. [Music]
Bob Sherman And there's another first hearing for us on the Young Artist Showcase the sonata of James Nicholas sonata of course for horn and piano and played of course here by our guests Steven Cohen and Martha locker.
Bob Sherman Now I've been talking about Brahms and we are going to hear a couple of movements of the Brahms horn trio and that requires the services of our page turner so far so Sho Omagari come over just quickly so we can say hello and find out a little about you. Tell us just very briefly about yourself where are you from. How did you meet Steven and what's the whole story here.
Sho Omagari Thank you. It is my pleasure being here. I mean it's show McGarry I'm from Japan ethnic cape. I was born in Hamburg Germany which also happens to be the birth city of the highness Brahms.
Bob Sherman So that all ties together nicely. How did you meet Steven I gather you've known him for a lot of years.
Sho Omagari We've known each other for a decade and a half two decades almost. We went to the same youth orchestra and we also into two same college men as kinds of music. So we've known each other for quite a while.
Bob Sherman And what is your focus, is it orchestral or are you chamber music primarily, what...?
Sho Omagari I am based in New York City as a freelance violinist. Well I do of course also play for the orchestra. Whenever I get a phone call from a neighbor get the phone call. And I also do a recital not just in New York but throughout the states and also sometime in Europe and Japan.
Bob Sherman Okay. If you will we'll head back. I'll send you back to the performing center of our studio here. Martha locker's still at the piano and Steven Cohen warming up his wrath at the horn. The first and last movement of the Brahms horn trio. [Music]
Bob Sherman The thrilling finale of the Brahms horn trio and our own wonderful session here in the studio with at the horn. Steven Cohen violinist show McGarry and pianist Martha locker. So great thanks to all of you. And oh it's been a fascinating hour. Much appreciated. And with that we'll adjourn for our final greeting from Terry McGraw.
Terry McGraw Well thanks Bob. There's nothing more satisfying than seeing some of the wonderful young musicians we introduce on Young Artist Showcase. Go on to become part of our musical mainstream. And it happens all the time on this program. It shows we're not lonely on the right track Bob but leading the way towards a great American future in the arts. I hope you'll all join us again next week.
Bob Sherman Thank you Terry. Always good talking with you. Very often our summer encores extend much further into September. But this past spring I spent 10 days in Beijing at the first China International Piano Competition. And was able to secure the rights to bring you American radio premieres of performances recorded during the semi and final round auditions. I am by the way especially gratified that two of the top three winners Tony Siqi Yun and Mackenzie Melamed are showcase alumni anyway next week and through the rest of September. Top notch keyboards playing solo has partnered to a vocalist and with orchestra will encompass our musical agenda. I'm really excited about this unique opportunity for WQXR listeners and hope you can join us for a month of very special tonal treats indeed. Very special also as the ongoing support of Terry McGraw and the generosity of the Harold W. McGraw junior Family Foundation which together have allowed the Young Artist Showcase to flourish for well over four decades. Max fine is my production partner. I'm Bob Sherman. Good night everybody.