Otero, French horn to star in recital series’ 3rd show

The third concert in the 2011-12 Recital Series at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship will feature Erica Otero, a French horn player, in a program of works from the 19th and 20th centuries. She will be assisted by Gemma Kavanagh, soprano, and Marilyn Garst, piano.

The program will open and close with works for soprano, horn and piano. The first will be “Alphorn” by Richard Strauss, who is known for his masterful writing for the horn in tone poems such as “Don Juan” and “Til Eulenspiegel.” The alphorn, also known as the alpenhorn or alpine horn, is made of wood, has a conical shape like the French horn, and is about 8 feet long. It is used by mountain dwellers as a communication device in Europe.

The calls of the horn in Alphorn, reminiscent of the calls one might hear in the Swiss mountains, are intertwined with the soprano part. The text tells a story of a young man who is reminded by the sound of the alphorn of the one he loves and her father who stands in the way of their love.

The closing work will be “Variazioni Concertante” by Otto Nicolai. Nicolai, most known for his opera “The Merry Wives of Windsor,” based his variations on a melody from the opera “La Sonnambula” by Bellini. It is a virtuoso salon piece that culminates in a flourish of energy.

Two works from the 20th century will complete the program. The first is the Sonata for Horn and Piano by Paul Hindemith. He wrote the sonata in 1939, about 60 years after the Alphorn, during a period of intense study of horn technique.

The work includes abundant counterpoint between the piano and horn, chromatic melodies, and extreme contrasts in dynamics and range.

The third theme of the first movement reappears in the second movement where it is elaborated into a three-part song form.

The last movement introduces two very contrasting themes, one energetic and driving and the other hesitating and halting.

The other 20th century work is “Laudatio” for unaccompanied horn by Bernhard Krol. The title infers the idea of praise with a connection to Gregorian chant. The words ‘Te Deum laudamus” are cited in the written music and refer to a well-known Gregorian chant that begins with the words “Oh, God, we praise thee.” Though the piece has a prayerful character at times, it reveals many other moods, as well.

Erica Otero plays principal horn with the San Juan Symphony and freelances with groups such as Opera Southwest, Santa Fe Pro Musica and the former New Mexico Symphony. She teaches music part-time at the University of New Mexico. She also teaches elementary band at several elementary schools in the Albuquerque area. She has a doctorate in horn performance from the University of Northern Colorado and a master’s degree in horn performance from the University of Mississippi. Her undergraduate degree is from the University of New Mexico in the area of music education.

The last recital in this year’s series will feature Marilyn Garst on piano on April 13 in a program of works by Beethoven, Brahms and Prokofiev.