French horn players have a little joke. Q: Why is the French horn considered a divine instrument? A: Because a man blows in it, but only God knows what comes out.
Hornswoggle, a convivial group of French horn players with divine talent, played Heavenly music at Southwestern’s College recital. Archangel Gabriel’s trumpet has competition in the Supreme Horn Section.
Hornswoggle kicked off great. “Roaring 20s” was a blast from the past that made Mayan Hall swing like an epic Jay Gatsby party. “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves” was a royal piece. Dramatic percussion and piercing horns took the audience to a fantasy world of their own, where an entire village anxiously awaited the king’s arrival. Instead of money, breaths were stolen. Robin Hood did it again.
French horns went American with a shout out to Western films. Music evoked tumbleweeds, cowboys and wooden saloons in “Oater Festival.” This piece had all the familiar characteristics of an old Western film. Clint Eastwood was squinting with his finger twitching near his gun.
“Scarborough Fair” and “Phantom Horns” earned the loudest applause of the evening and were the best of the night. Less interesting were “Make Our Garden Grow,” “Sine Nomine” and “Amparito Roca.” These pieces made little contribution to the excitement of the night, and should have been left out.
A solemn and appropriate finish for the evening was “Evening Prayer from Hansel and Gretel.” It was serious and seriously good, a brassy climax for a night of sublime music.