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Review of So Low in Gramophone, January 2016

By Donald Rosenberg

Horn players who spend much of their time in the instrument’s low register tend to get the short end of the solo stick, a situation Denise Tryon has set out to remedy. On her new disc, the fourth hornist of the Philadelphia Orchestra performs works written for artists in the sonic nether regions and intended either for recital or audition purposes. The only composer most listeners may know is Carl Nielsen, but the other pieces show their creators in imaginative and appealing form.

From the audition side are Nielsen’s Canto serioso, a poetic and sweeping miniature, and Hermann Neuling’s Bagatelle, which blends Straussian swagger and songfulness as it subtly weaves descending episodes into the narrative. Likewise, many of the remaining pieces are cannily crafted to avoid signalling the fact that they’re written for low horn. Tim Martin’s Lament, for example, places the unaccompanied horn in a series of wailing episodes, complete with hand-stopped and ascending passages.

The instrument’s low register is exploited to dramatic effect in Peter Askim’s A Door Into the Dark, which evokes a blacksmith shaping metal with varied equipment. Brett Miller avoids the horn cliché of 6/8 galloping in his Hunting Songs by portraying crow, owl and falcon in music of atmospheric lyricism.

Tryon plays these works and other winning pieces by Nathan Pawelek, Dante Yenque and Andrea Clearfield with sonorous fluidity and dexterity, ending with a bit of captivating acrobatics, Gummi Polka by an anonymous composer. Julie Nishimura is an ideal partner whenever a piano is called upon to team with this down-but-definitely-never-out hornist.

Gramophone website

Review of So Low by WTJU, December 2015

By Ralph Graves

A program of music for a solo instrument (unless it’s the piano) usually has limited appeal to the general classical music lover. But this release of music for the low horn should really be the exception — because both the music and the performance is exceptional.

The low horn is part of the French horn family (and part of the horn section of an orchestra), with a range that extends below that of a regular French horn. Denise Tryon is a low horn specialist, and is not only one of the most prominent players of the instrument, but an advocate of music for it.

The majority of the works on So*Low were commissioned by Tryon, and show the low horn (and her abilities) to best advantage. Tryon plays with a warm, smooth delivery that enhances the dark richness of the instrument itself.

The commissioned works are all relatively conservative in their tonality, while being richly inventive in other ways. Brett Miller’s “Hunting Songs,” for example, turns the concept of triadic hunt calls around, and presents some dramatic and technical challenges for Tryon.

“A Door Into Dark..” by Peter Askim, exploits the lowest register of the horn, and makes the piano an equal partner in the development of the music.

Also included are some standards of the horn repertoire — Hermann Neuling’s “Bagatelle” and Carl Nielsen’s “Canto Serioso.” Although they’re the oldest works on the album, they fit nicely with the more modern selections in style.

I’m sure there are many horn players who recognize Tryon’s name and will want to own this recording. But this is more than just a specialty disc. The music and the performances make this a recording I’d recommend to anyone interested in quality chamber music.

WTJU website

Review of So Low by WSCL, November 2015

In 1989 Tryon graduated from the famed Interlochen Arts Academy and in 1993 received her Bachelor of Music degree from the New England Conservatory of Music (NEC) in Boston. She received the Presidential Scholarship while in the Artist Diploma Program at NEC.  She is known for her masterclasses in the US, Europe and Asia.   In 2009, Tryon founded Audition Mode, a yearly horn seminar, with Karl Pituch. In 2010 she was an International Horn Society (IHS) Northeast Workshop Featured Artist. This CD of mostly new works has some challenging works, but many with infectious rhythm and melody, and her sound is rich and creamy.

WSCL website

Review of So Low from Horn Call

With her long history of world-class orchestral playing as a low horn specialist, I knew that Denise Tryon’s CD, So Low, would be excellent, but after listening to the recording several times, it has truly surpassed all of my expectations. So Low fills a special need for recordings and commissions that are focused on expanding the repertoire for low horn playing. Denise Tryon’s low horn playing is so versatile, dynamic, and unimaginably solid that I believe this CD not only models great repertoire for the horn’s low register but also models exquisite low horn playing that all horn players need to hear. I hope this recording finds its way to the CD libraries of horn studios all over the country. I also appreciate Tryon’s decision to mix works from the standard repertoire with new works featuring the low horn. Throughout this CD, Tryon’s stability, flexibility and rich tone in the low register are nothing short of inspiring.

Neuling’s Bagatelle is played with ease and fluidity. Surely Tryon’s high-quality musicianship surpasses any performance that Neuling could have imagined. Tryon also includes a beautiful recording of Nielsen’s Canto Serioso. Throughout this recording project, Tryon has brought life to well-known, but infrequently recorded standards of the
low horn repertoire for professionals, students, and enthusiasts alike.

The new works for horn and piano such as Peter Askim’s A Door in the Dark, Nathan Pawelek’s Irremediable Breakdown, Brett Miller’s Hunting Songs, and River Melos by Andrea Clearfield highlight the low horn as a solo voice and not the often heard supporting voice. These are all exciting and important contributions to the low horn
repertoire and I hope they frequently find their way into the performance hall. It is refreshing to hear this range of the horn treated as an individual voice that is capable of conveying as much musicality as the horn’s brilliant upper register.

Two strong works for unaccompanied horn, Dante Yenque’s Tanguito and Tim Martin’s Lament (which is already frequently finding its way into the concert hall), allow the horn’s low register to stand on its own. Tryon’s sense of line and musical direction breathe life into these works.

An unaccompanied work titled Gummi Polka is a short, sweet, and stunning tribute to the low horn and her remarkable low register. You must hear this CD!