We’ve been keeping in touch with the musicians of the SSO during the pandemic – and we got this awesome note from the SSO’s Principal Horn:
Hi my name is Carol-Marie Cottin and I play principal horn with the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra. I decided to write about why I chose horn and some of my favourite composers for horn.
I’ve been a proud member of this orchestra since 1993. I started music at a young age. Being the last of six children my mothers made sure all of us started on piano. Unfortunately I didn’t stay with piano, something I regret to this day. Anyway, in grade 6 I started on trumpet. And the only reason I started with trumpet was because my older brother had played it and it was the instrument laying around. I was quite happy playing trumpet and had great teachers in those early years. Actually all my teachers were great I was very lucky in that regard. Then when I was in grade 10 I went to my then band teacher, shout out to Mr. Chuck Hendrickson, great teacher/mentor, and asked if I could play French horn. He said “let me think about it”. So I anxiously waited what seemed forever, but was in reality was only a couple of days for his answer. He came back and said yes. Well I was so excited to pick up this magnificent, complicated, challenging and beautiful instrument. And so began my horn career.
And now I’ll write about some of my favourite orchestral repertoire for the horn. Wow, it’s hard to know where to start there’s so much to choose from. Well as you might know Mozart write so much for the horn: 4 concertos, a rondo, horn quintet, wind sinfonietta just to mention a few. So I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Mozart.
Let’s move on to Brahms. Brahms and horn playing to me are one and the same. Brahms had a great understanding of the horn sound and it’s capabilities. Whether it’s a heroic horn call, as in the finale of his 1st symphony or the haunting melody of his 3rd symphony Brahms brings to life the true colour of the horn. For me, Brahms always brings me home to the raw beauty of the horn sound, so pure and simple.
Next, I’d have to mention Richard Strauss. Also someone who wrote 2 horn concertos. It might have had something to do with the fact that his father was a horn player and composer. But I digress. By this time the horn as we know it today was in full use. Strauss wrote sheer gymnastic, acrobatic horn lines. It’s both a joy and a terrifying challenge to play his works. There are so many juicy horn parts in all his tone poems; from Till to Don Juan and from operas such as Capriccio (very extended horn solo-3rd act) to Salome and Elecktra. I’ve never met a horn player that just didn’t love to play Strauss.
I will end and what for me is the ultimate in horn playing. Mahler. I’ve had the great pleasure of playing a lot of Mahler and it’s always been a great joy and full of satisfaction. It’s like the chocolate cake with the cherry on top and a side of ice cream. Yum. A couple of years ago my dream of playing symphony #5 came true. It was another universe, another reality. I encourage all to go and listen to it. Mahler just knew how to write glorious soaring horn lines that just fit nicely on the horn. As well as writing for the whole brass section and whole orchestra lines that spoke to the true humanity of us all. His music fills up my soul and expresses all I want to say through my instrument -the horn
Well, it has been a great pleasure to share some of my favourite horn parts during these strange times. Take care, stay safe and stay healthy.