Jeffrey Snedeker's Musique de salon CD

Review by Robert Pyle, Cornucopia, March 1997

Jeffrey Snedeker, horn professor at Central Washington University in Ellensburg WA, has released a CD entitled Musique de salon: 19th-Century French music for horn and piano with his wife, Marilyn Wilbanks, on fortepiano.

The CD contains eight pieces by six different compos ers. The pieces most likely to be familiar are by the best-known composers: Saint-Saens Romance and Rossini Prelude, Theme and Variations. Two composers were horn professors at the Paris Conservatory: Dauprat and his student and successor, Gallay. The remaining composers are Panseron and Bordogni, whose names are new to me.

Melodie by Dauprat is for "Cor alto" in F, "Cor basse" in E-flat, and piano. The E-flat part is played by Richard Seraphinoff, who teaches natural horn at Indiana University and who made the horns heard here. The horns play together, separately, and sometimes answering one another. Because the horns are crooked in different keys, different notes require hand-stopping, so the tone color is not the same for call and reply. The effect is very interesting.

Gallay's Eleventh Solo is a virtuoso piece for the horn alternating with interludes for piano alone, where Ms. Wilbanks gets to show off a bit.

Jeff's doctoral thesis was about Joseph Meifred and the introduction of the valved horn into France. Vocalises from Meifred's Methode por le Cor Chromatique by Panseron and Bordogni are played on a two-valve horn (Jeff's regular handhorn with the main tuning slide replaced by one carrying two valves, common practice then). The technique is a mixture of the traditional hand-horn with a fairly modern approach; i.e., the valves are used to play scalewise passages in the lower middle register, resulting in many fewer fully-stopped notes.

The playing is of very high quality, both artistically and technically. On the long notes, Jeff uses a slight vibrato that suits the music. There is a natural tendency for stopped notes to sound less loud than open notes. Jeff understands this and compensates; his virtuosity is sufficient that it always sounds as if he is in control of the music and not the other way around. Having heard them in recital, I can testify that Jeff and Marilyn are almost as perfect in real life as they are on this CD.

Bob is a consultant in acoustics, an amateur horn player, and acoustics editor for the Horn Call. The CD is available from Jeff for $12.50 (including shipping and handling) at 404 N. Sampson St, Ellensburg WA 98926.

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