The Valdosta Daily Times
Valdosta Symphony Orchestra audiences will discover what is arguably the quintessential horn piece this weekend.
The VSO is scheduled to perform Higdon’s “String,” Mozart’s Symphony No. 25 in G minor, and Schumann’s Konzertstücke for Four Horns, Op. 86.
This horn piece features guest musician Bernhard Scully, who is the former St. Paul Chamber Orchestra principal horn, along with performer and composer Paul Basler, Valdosta State University Music alum Joseph Gill and VSO Principal Horn Kristen Johns.
Johns says the Schumann work presents horn players with unique challenges.
“The piece is at the pinnacle of our repertoire as far as difficulty,” Johns says. “It requires virtuosic playing from all four players.”
As for the audience, it will notice the horn’s range.
“I think the audience will discover what a diverse instrument the horn can be and the unique sound of four horns playing together,” Johns says. “This piece is especially challenging because of the wide pitch range it requires of almost four octaves.”
Orchestra concerts often have a guest musician who rehearses the piece alone before arriving in town for a rehearsal with the full orchestra. With Schumann’s four horns, it requires an extra step between the individual rehearsals and the full orchestra rehearsal.
“We will rehearse once before we rehearse with the orchestra,” Johns says. “We can do this because we have played together for so many years. Paul Basler has been a member of the orchestra since 1994, and Joseph Gill since 2005. Also our training is very similar so we match well.”
For Johns, her training began as a child. The daughter of professional musicians, she has always been around music and instrumentation.
“I had a lot of early exposure to the sound of many instruments,” she says. “I was attracted to the horn because of the beautiful and heroic sound it can make. I started playing horn at age 10 after a few years of piano lessons and singing in choirs.”
Johns has performed in venues across the nation. Johns has been the Valdosta Symphony Orchestra’s principal horn since fall 1995.