Does it really matter if I know who Philip Farkas was?

This past week a 19 year old minor league baseball player was asked to write a report about a famous Baltimore Oriole player Frank Robinson, because he didn’t know who he was, and what he had done for the team and baseball in general.

I am curious.  How many students know what the name Farkas on their mouthpiece means?  If you (gasp!) don’t own “The Art of French Horn Playing” have you heard of the author, and even if you do own it  do you know anything about the author?  How many students actually read the “forwards “ of these books?  If you live outside the US it is quite probable that unless you read english, that you don’t own this book and therefore haven’t heard of Mister Farkas (possibly the most important pedagogue of the last 100 years.  You say you play on a Geyer wrap horn, but do you know what that really means or who Mr. Geyer even was?  You get my point.

Here are some names.  How many do you really know anything about, or at least recognise?  Some are historical, pedagogical or orchestral, and some are very recent.

Duvernoy

Thévet

Baumann

Civil

Chambers

Horner

Frøydis Ree Werke

Barboteu

Seifert

Aubrey Brain

Clevenger

Buyanovsky

Lawson

Rittich

Kruspe

Morley-Pegge

Meng

Orval

DeRosa

Dufrasne

Geyer

Lanzky-Otto

Chiba

Reynolds

Yanchich

Damm

Berger

This list could be endless and filled with more historical figures, orchestra players, etude authors, more Americans, less Americans, etc…  I don’t think that you need to memorise books on the topic, but a working knowledge of these people, and many others would greatly enhance your understanding of what we do and why.  I am not saying that memorising facts about these people will make you a better horn player, or even a better person, but…

As musicians we are in constant contact with our past through the music we perform.  We investigate performance practice to use appropriate articulations in a Mozart concerto or a Beethoven symphony.  We learn how to interpret all the different markings in a Brahms symphony.  We say we like Dale Clevenger’s sound and then someone else says that they prefer the sound of James Chambers.  Why do you have a preference, and why are their sounds different, apart from being two different men from two different cities playing on completely different equipment. Why do some countries have a history of more vibrato use, and do they still have the same traditions today?  Have you asked your teacher why they play the instrument they do?  Do you know who your teacher studied with and why?

It is important to build respect for the past, and to understand our roots as horn players.  The growth of all art is an organic process.  We build the foundations of our playing on the backs of all these great people.  Take a moment and think about them and what they mean to us today.


















© Bruce Richards 2012-2015