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Concert Music for Christmas Transcribed for Horn Quartet by William Melton

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Concert Music for Christmas

Transcribed for
Horn Quartet
by William Melton

Far beyond the usual Christmas carols, composers over the centuries have created original music that evokes the Yule season. These 25 horn quartet (and 2 trio) arrangements of works by Glazunov, Holst, Humperdinck, Liszt, Purcell, et al., will make programming a substantial and varied Christmas concert an easy task.


From the Foreword / Aus dem Vorwort

Carols are heard across the globe at Christmas, so it is no wonder that horn quartet arrangements of them number in the hundreds. But carols are also short affairs – though ideal for wandering from house to house, they are unsuited for concert programs. Tristan Jakob-Hoff wrote in The Guardian (December 17, 2007),

Christmas is a bad time for classical music. Every year, just as the mercury begins its inexorable journey downwards, otherwise perfectly reasonable classical music fans are overcome by the urge to splash out on some tasteless Christmas music. This can take many forms: from absurdly overblown orchestral arrangements of famous carols, to dreary choral bonanzas, to that essential Christmas time snorefest that is The Nutcracker. … But a little digging reveals there is, in fact, such a thing as tasteful Christmas music.

In fact, the Christmas music written over the last centuries has left a harvest that goes far beyond just tasteful. Many composers have been moved by the Christmas story to create significant works for piano, solo voice, chorus, chamber ensemble, or full orchestra. Twenty-seven of them are included here in transcriptions for quartet (25) and trio (2; trios can be of great value when one quartet member is running late due to traffic, weather, etc.).

Whether meant originally for performance in church, in the home, or in concert halls, this collection houses music by composers who often had a personal connection to the holiday. They sometimes portray specifics of the Christmas story, from lullabies in the manger, to portraits of angels, shepherds, or the three kings. Other pieces create a more secular Christmas mood, evoking a snowy forest or a sleigh ride (though on occasion they craftily weave portions of Christmas carols into the musical fabric). Each draws from different European Yule traditions, from the folk-tinged directness of Scandinavian composers to the insightful humanity of the French, and from the orthodox solidity of the Russians to the mellow “contenance angloise” of English composers.

The quartet arrangements here eliminate aggravations like “old” bass clef and over-complicated key signatures. However, ample courtesy accidentals and recovery breaks from upper register play (especially in the first horn parts) have been added.
A healthy mix of musical styles is a plus for both performers and audience, so choices range from John Taverner (born c. 1490) to Alban Berg (born 1885).


€  29,50