Review - Selected Schubert Songs for horn and piano
transcribed by Bob Ashworth


edb 0702018 Chamber Music series

It has often struck me as a pity that Schubert didn’t write anything for solo horn. His horn parts in, for example, the Octet, Auf dem Strom, and even the symphonies, are written with a beautiful understanding of the instrument and its strengths. Bob Ashworth’s new set of six lieder transcriptions, therefore, is a very welcome addition to our repertoire.

The first thing to say is that an immense amount of thought and care has clearly been put into this set. The song texts are provided, in both German and English, along with some fascinating illustrations and information about 19th century horns, and also about the famous Lewy Brothers and their association with Schubert. The typesetting is immaculate and even the paper quality is super. The overall impression is of a serious level of attention to detail.

That same level of care is also to be found in the transcriptions themselves. For each of the
songs, Bob has provided two piano parts: the first is exactly as composed by Schubert, but the second is cleverly and sympathetically simplified for, in Bob’s own words, “those with perhaps less pianistic ability”. These piano parts will, no doubt, be very much appreciated by many horn teachers, and will allow students and teachers to enjoy playing together. I suspect there will also be many students who will enjoy taking the opportunity to learn both parts, allowing an even greater understanding of Schubert’s harmony and word-painting.

In the horn parts, Bob has given thoughtful and tasteful performance suggestions with dotted slurs and bracketed articulations in addition to Schubert’s own markings. He is, however, clear that performers should also feel free to experiment and to find the phrasing which suits their own interpretation.

Bob is also very encouraging with his suggestions to try the songs in various transpositions and even on natural horn. As such, the set represents a tremendous resource for study, giving wonderful melodies to explore whilst working on sound, breathing and intonation.
Having said that, I feel that these songs will also prove very useful as recital pieces in their own right. They work well as a set, but individually would also make super encores. I have thoroughly enjoyed working on them myself - a lovely way to get to know this wonderful music from the inside.

Tim Jackson, The Horn Player, BHS, Vol 18 #3 – AUTUMN 2021




Selected Schubert Songs for horn and piano, by Franz Schubert

selected and transcribed by Bob Ashworth.

Franz Schubert's art songs have long been described as the pinnacle of vocal expression, a focused combination of melody and text that exemplify the intimate side of musical expression in the 19th century. Schubert's knack for melodic line has also been appreciated by instrumentalists in his symphonic and chamber works as well as transcriptions of many of his 600+ songs. Some of these transcriptions have found their way into the horn repertoire in a variety of editions, from single tunes included in such popular collections as Mason Jones's First Solos for the Horn Player and Thomas Bacon's Selected Songs (and remember the old Ditson Album of French Horn Solos, ca. 1940) to collections previously reviewed in The Horn Call; e.g., Kazimierz Machala's Franz Schubert:Twenty-One Lieder for Horn and Piano (reviewed in October 2007). These songs have been used as far back as Jacques-François Gallay, who published a collection of six songs transcribed for natural horn and piano (Op. 51), recently re-issued in a modern edition by Billaudot. Whether intended for performance, practice, or enjoyment, these songs offer wonderful opportunities for lyrical playing.

All of this is presented here not to undercut Bob Ashworth's new edition of selected songs - quite the opposite; it is offered to reinforce the value of this new edition.The six songs he has chosen - An die Musik (To Music), Meeres Stille (Calm Sea), Lachen und Weinen (Laughter and Tears), Mein! (Mine!), Du bist die Ruh' (You are Repose), and Nacht und Träume (Night and Dreams) - are all familiar tunes, which adds to their value as transcriptions. In his performance notes, Ashworth reminds us that these songs can be used to work on tone, breathing, phrasing, intonation, legato style, and good taste. The songs have been tastefully transposed by a minor third, perfect fourth, and/or a perfect fifth, placing the key and octave for the melody depending on the range most beneficial to the horn. Since these songs are often transposed for different ranges, including octave displacements, the choices have been made appropriately and in good taste.

Several added features to this edition make it more interesting. First is Ashworth's inclusion of two versions of the piano accompaniment - a transposed original and a second “easier reduced version for those with perhaps less pianistic ability." For the most part, the reduced version involves simplified rhythms so they are easier to navigate, which will be much appreciated by younger and/or less experienced pianists. A second feature is the inclusion of horn parts in additional transpositions for some of the songs. These are intended for transposition practice as well as opportunities to play the respective songs using a natural horn. Parts in F are given for all except Nacht und Träume. Crooks for E-flat, E, F, G, A, and even a less practical option of a D-flat crook for Du bist die Ruh' can be used, and they do provide an interesting added value.

Ashworth has included the texts for all songs, which will assist the performers in making tasteful decisions in style and phrasing. He has also included some additional pictures and information on Schubert, two hornists who had contact with Schubert and his music during his life, E.C.Lewy and J.R. Lewy, and short descriptions of French and German two-valved horns. These last are of somewhat questionable relevance to the songs, but the context they provide is welcome. The transcriptions are direct from the originals, with no added ornamentation or elaboration. Performers of these works are encouraged to consult the original works to consider original articulations and phrase markings, if desired, as well as to resolve the occasional misprint. As is normally the case in Ashworth's editions, the horn and piano parts are clean and easy to read. The reduced piano part receives an enthusiastic thumbs-up.

This edition is worthwhile for its expressed purpose, and the tunes stand well on their own as instrumental pieces.

Jeffrey Snedeker and Marilyn Wilbanks, Ellensburg, Washington for The Horn Call, Vol.LII, No.3, May 2022

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