CONCERTO FOR HORN AND STRINGS by Gordon Jacob
INSTRUMENTATION: Horn and Chamber Orchestra
PUBLISHER: 1951 Joseph Williams, Ltd.
CAN BE FOUND ON IMSLP: No
SPOTIFY: Sören Hermanson, Horn Concertos
iTUNES: David Pyatt, British Horn Concertos
GRADE/DIFFICULTY (1 easy, 6 very difficult): 5 (endurance)
EXTENDED TECHNIQUES: none
After fighting in WWI, Gordon Jacob (1895 – 1984) went on to study composition, theory, and conducting with Vaughn Williams at the Royal College of Music where he later taught in 1924 until his retirement in 1966 — Malcolm Arnold was among his many students. Jacob preferred to be far more conservative than his colleagues and classmates of the time, ignoring atonality and serialism, and preferring to write for wind instruments due to his embrace of the wind band.
The concerto was dedicated to Dennis Brain and was premiered by him on 8 May 1951 during a “Festival of Britain Concert” at Wigmore Hall in London with the Surrey Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Kathleen Riddick. A review of the concert stated that Dennis Brain’s effortless agility in the opening movement, and still more in the busy finale, left the impression that is was as easy to get about at high speed on a horn as on a clarinet. (Brain Life in Music, p. 175)
Movement 1: Allegro moderato – Cadenza
The first movement could be used as a stand alone work during a brief chamber concert. This movement demands a lot from the soloist both musically and physically — flexibility, endurance, and range. A brief cadenza at the end of the movement requires speed, agility, and cleanliness.
Movement 2: Adagio
The second movement provides a beautiful, haunting melody but can cause fatigue due to the generally repetitive nature of the tune.
Movement 3: Allegro con spirito, quasi presto
This movement requires a flexible and agile multiple tongue in order to pull it off with gusto. It is exciting, enticing, and energetic.