First, some history:
Jacques-François Gallay (1795-1864) was a one of the leading figures in nineteenth century French musical life. Principal horn of the Théâtre Italien he performed and composed prolifically and did much to promote his instrument, the natural horn, of which is regarded as the last great virtuoso (FAQ no.1 "What's a natural horn?" - learn more here).
He was associated with composers such as Rossini, performers such as Paganini, and critics applauded both his technique and taste. Berlioz said of Gallay that "the talent of this virtuoso has been known and valued for a long time; the opinion of artists and amateurs is unanimous on this subject. Excellent embouchure, surety of intonation, accuracy, a pure sound, good taste in ornaments, he has all that consitutes a horn player of the first order".
Some more recent history:
When I was a student in France I was introduced to the wonderful music of Gallay and I immediately fell in love. The challenges of his music are great but the sound world he inhabits is so extraordinary that I was determined to learn all I could, explore his music deeply and promote it as best I can.
Over the last few years I've recorded two discs featuring the works of Gallay. The first featured the solo caprices - think Paganini but for horn instead of violin.
"Playing these pieces on a modern instrument is difficult enough. Hearing them performed with this much panache on an unvalved horn built in 1823 is astonishing. Anneke Scott’s playing is bold and dramatic, Gallay’s theatrical background reflected in the music’s swagger” (Artsdesk)
"Scott's virtuosity on the instrument is a joy to hear. She deftly moves through the difficult hand-stopping technique, bringing out variety of color without losing anything in terms of phrasing and fluidity." (Horn Call)
“The performances on the CD are so utterly compelling. Scott has put together an incredible CD that repeatedly delights and surprises the listener” (Historic Brass Society)
You can hear and see more about this project here:
This project was kindly made possible thanks to the Gerald Finzi Trust who awarded me one of their travel scholarships (read more about the scholarship here).
This solo disc was followed in 2013 by a recording by the natural horn quartet Les Chevaliers des Saint Hubert (Joseph Walters, Jorge Renteria-Campos, Martin Lawrence and myself) of Gallay's chamber music for natural horn.
Again, we received notable reviews for this disc including:
"Jacques-François Gallay was certainly a most talented composer...and it was his genius to recognise that, were he to write for a horn quartet with each of the horns crooked in different keys, this might open up yet another new range of artistic possibilities...This gave him new harmonic and melodic possibilities and also allowed him to fully exploit the varying timbral colours of differently pitched crooks. He makes full use of all these possibilities in this work, yet always as the servant of the musical argument. The Grand Quatuor is a seminal work in the development of horn ensemble music, and is, in my view, Gallay’s masterpiece.
The performance here is quite astonishing musically and technically. The best recommendation that I can give came from a horn playing friend who is not deeply into original instrument performance. He listened carefully and said “Well that’s a performance where one doesn’t need to make any allowance for it being on original instruments”. (Paul Sawbridge The Horn Player Volume 11, Number 1, 2014).
Hear the first movement of the Gallay Grand Quatuor here:
The current project: Gallay at the Opera
Throughout these other projects, at the back of my head was the possibility of recording some of the Gallay opera fantasias. These works are hardly known as much of the music is not available or even known about. Much digging in archives and libraries around the world plus many hours work in producing new editions of all these works have meant that a new wealth of nineteenth-century works for horn and piano have been rediscovered.
The pieces selected for this recording include:
- Fantaisie brillante sur l’Opéra les Martyrs de Donizetti (Op. 49)
- Fantaisie sopra un motivo dell Bianca e Fernando (Op. 47/2)
- Fantaisie sur une cavatine de Belisario (Op. 42)
- Troisième Mélodie sur La Somnambula (Op. 28)
- Fantaisie sur l’Elisir d’amore (Op. 46)
- Fantaisie brilliante sur une motife de Norma de Bellini (Op. 40)
- Three song settings for soprano, horn and piano: Donizetti's Une Larme Furtive de l’Elisir d’amore, Fuis Laisse Moi de Roberto Devereux and Mercadante's L’appel du Chasseur.
These works are typical of both Gallay's compositions and style of horn playing, mixing incredibly virtuosic music with beautifully lyrical melodies deeply influenced by his position as solo horn of the Parisian Théâtre Italien In many ways these works represent a "missing link" in today's repertoire for horn illustrating a sizeable body of works that come between the classical concerti and sonatas of Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven and their contemporaries and the later nineteenth-century Romantic tradition typified by the Franz and Richard Strauss.
These charming and entertaining works are still capable of captivating audiences in the 21st century and by recording the music and publishing editions of the works I hope to help renew interest in this important period of musical history.
I am delighted that for this project alongside me will be period keyboard expert Steven Devine, with whom I've collaborated on a number of projects previously. Joining us for the three song settings, the internationally renowned opera singer Lucy Crowe.
We are very fortunate in having two original nineteenth-century French instruments for this project. The Bate Collection, Oxford, has a remarkable collection including many fine horns. One of the jewels of the collection is their 1823 Raoux cor solo, an instrument by the same maker and of the same design as Gallay's own instrument. For the first two Gallay recordings I was kindly loaned this instrument and I am very grateful to the Bate in their generosity in allowing me to use it once more.
To partner the Raoux cor solo we are very pleased to be using an 1851 Érard grand piano belonging to the University of Birmingham. Recently restored by David Winston of the Period Piano Company (whose website includes extracts of previous recordings on this instrument), Érard pianos are considered some of the finest instruments of their time and representative of the sound world that Gallay and his contemporaries inhabited.
Risks and challenges
We have an amazing team on board. Fantastic musicians (Anneke Scott, Steven Devine, Lucy Crowe) and our producer/engineer (Adrian Hunter) who've worked together in a number of guises on other projects. We've carefully sourced instruments, an original Érard grand piano from the University of Birmingham and a Raoux cor solo from the Bate Collection. We've been and scouted out the new Ruddock Performing Arts Centre and checked out the acoustic and any noise in the surrounding areas. We've spent hours in libraries and archives, found the music and produced new editions of all the music to be recorded. We've got together and pulled apart the music, exploring the possibilities and arranged some secret concerts to try out the repertoire.
So everything is in place? Of course, there are numerous challenges involved in recording. Working with original instruments can be precarious at the best of times or sometimes you need to go an negotiate with a local gardener wanting to mow their lawn. But given the wealth of experience, knowledge, imagination and resilience that this team brings to the project plus the preparation work that's been happening behind the scenes we are confident that we can bring these amazing compositions to a CD player near you in early 2015!Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (38 days)