Somewhere, among the writings of Marcus Aurelias, Seneca or Epictetus, there is a Stoic maxim that argues that the easier something is to do, the less meaningful and fulfilling it is for one’s personhood and soul. The Stoics, it seems, liked doing hard things. And in classical music, there is perhaps no instrument more difficult to master than the French horn (simply “the horn” among the classical intelligentsia), what with its perplexing embouchure placement and quixotic fingering positions. But, just as the inverse of the aforementioned maxim would posit that the more difficult something is to do, the more satisfying and efficacious the result, it is also a truism (or perhaps just my opinion) that a well-played French horn ranks among the most breathtaking sounds in all of music. A single listen to Clara et Robert Schumann – musique pour cor, a 2023 ATMA release featuring the exquisite horn stylings of Montreal-based musician and educator Louis-Philippe Marsolais, should illuminate why this is the case.
Evidencing an enveloping warm, round and inviting timbre on the brass instrument, Marsolais, joined by terrific pianists Philip Chiu and David Jalbert, as well as cellists Stéphane Tétreault and Cameron Crozman, foregrounds a thoughtful selection of chamber music composed by Clara and Robert Schumann, now placed into new and engaging musical contexts. Repertoire originally composed for a variety of instruments takes on an intimate sheen, sonic patina and mellow lustre when stated here on the horn, providing both the opportunity to feature the instrument more robustly as a principal solo voice, and continue the overdue and ongoing efforts taken to appropriately write Clara Schumann more prominently into the canon of classical compositions and composers.