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WASO Schubert & Bartok
Written by Jan Hallam

 

201608-Asher-FischWASO Principal Conductor Asher FischIn our occasional series of the unsung heroes of the WASO, principal horn player David Evans, who will on August 19 & 20 be soloist in Mozart’s Fourth Horn Concerto, answers our questions.

MF: What was your early musical education?
DE: I started learning the horn when I was around 12. It was my first instrument, which is a little unusual as most people start on trumpet or in a brass band, and change to horn later. My father taught me, he was Principal Horn in the Melbourne Symphony for many years. I was very lucky to grow up hearing his sound every day, and this subconsciously taught me more about phrasing and sound concept than anything. I wasn't very serious about playing when I was at school, but I played in the band and orchestra. I only started practising properly when I got to tertiary level.

MF: Did others in your family play an instrument?
DE: My mother was cellist (still is, though now retired). She was also in the MSO for many years, retiring quite recently.

MF: How much did your upbringing play in your decision to make music your career?
DE: Growing up around orchestral and chamber music, and hearing it being prepared around the house certainly gave me a good idea about the life of professional musicians. I also got to hear a lot about the disadvantages, such as the irregular hours, stress and difficulty. My parents didn't actively encourage me to be a professional horn player, they knew how difficult it is to get into an orchestral job.

MF: Why the Horn?
DE: Obviously having an instrument close by helped, I played one of dad's old ones. But I always liked the sound. The horn also gets some really satisfying parts to play in the orchestra, from soaring heroic lines to lyrical passages, as well as blending with the woodwind and brass sections at different times.

MF: Explain the difference between horn and French horn?
DE: I'm not really sure why people call it the ‘French Horn’ in English, possibly way back in the 1600s the first hunting horns came to England from France. Pretty well all modern orchestral horns these days are based around German designs. The French word for horn is Cor (which is just horn), Italian Corno (horn), and German Waldhorn (hunting horn). So while we have to refer to ‘French horns’ so non-musical people know what we're talking about, most horn players prefer simply horn.

MF: You are playing the Mozart No4 horn concerto in August and it’s a typically beautiful piece from Mozart. What are the pitfalls?
DE: The Mozart concertos aren't as difficult technically as more modern solo works for horn, but they're all challenging to bring off musically. The fourth is quite demanding for endurance, as it's full of very long phrases and can be quite tiring for the lips. The last movement is probably the most well-known horn tune, there were some funny lyrics put to it by Flanders and Swann in the 1960s.

201608-WASO-David-Evans-credit-Nik-BabicWASO principal horn player David Evans
Picture: Nik Babic
MF: You are involved in music education, is the horn still a popular instrument for young people to take up?
DE: I teach a bit at UWA and WAAPA and some years there are many students, others less so I guess because Perth is a smaller city, but around the country there are always many fine young players. Many of my former students have gone on to post-grad study in Europe or other cities in Australia, as there aren't really enough freelancing opportunities in Perth.

MF: What is your favourite piece in the horn repertoire?
DE: It's pretty hard to nominate a favourite, Richard Strauss' tone poems and operas all have fabulous horn parts, as do Wagner's operas and Bruckner's symphonies. Mahler is also a highlight whenever that comes up.

MF: You played in the Australian World Orchestra in 2013, what was that like?
DE: It's a fantastic concept to bring all the great Australian players back from around the world for a “super orchestra”. It really was a highlight, not just for the amazing standard of the orchestra, but also for the fact that absolutely every player felt privileged to be on stage, no matter where they were sitting. Everybody really wanted to be there. The conductor was the world famous Zubin Mehta.

 

MF: You have been with the WASO since 2002, what have been the highlights for you?
DE: There have been many highlights, we have a great variety of music in WASO, from symphonic and opera to jazz and pop collaborations. Our recent Brahms and Beethoven cycles with our chief conductor Asher Fisch have been memorable, as well as our tour to China in 2006. Also, playing the Schumann Konzertstück for four horns (with three amazing horn friends) in Kings Park in front of 5000 people is definitely up there.


 

Michael Cassel and Cameron Mackintosh