© 2020 by Breanna Ellison

  • B.E.

Ligeti Trio for Horn, Violin, and Piano

from left to right:  Brendan O'Donnell (violin), Breanna Ellison (horn), Yannick Rafalimanana (piano)


Ligeti.  Ooooh, Ligeti.  You sly, sly composer, you.  Perhaps not everyone recognizes the "lopsided horn fifths" theme and the "chromatic lament" theme that pervades every movement and changes effortlessly like the seasons into different incarnations (sorry, just got done writing a paper), but I did.  That is, after I recovered from the high E-flats and high D's that I somehow managed to make a part of my everyday playing.  So, thanks for strongly convincing me to add that screaming technique à la Budapest Festival Horn Quartet.  (If you haven't heard these guys, you will now.  I mean it.  Click the link.  DO IT.)


In all seriousness, this was an amazing experience - something that surpassed my expectations.  I had thought, "Wow, great, it's a staple horn piece that's high and low and soft and blaring and everything in between that I'll get to brag to my friends about after performing it (in Jordan Hall, which was f***ing righteous)," but in all honesty, this piece kicked my ass appropriately and sent me forth on a traaaansformaaaation...


One where I could play soft and high regardless.

One where I could play low and loud regardless.

One where I could play stopped notes in tune with a violin's harmonics regardless.

One where I could play... REGARDLESS.


There's a great book by the infamous Frøydis Ree Wekre called "Thoughts on Playing the Horn Well."  In the book, there's a page called "play ANYWAY!" and until you are exposed, playing relatively new techniques, with instruments that can play "real, and I mean real soft," one doesn't fully understand the concept and its unimaginable worth. For me, this was in a way the current ultimate test, a test I like to think that I passed with relatively flying colors (maybe not a full rainbow, but still a damn pretty one); though, the colors wouldn't have been so flying without the unimaginably calm, cool, and collected duo of remarkable musicianship that is Yannick Rafalimanana (left) and Brendan O'Donnell (right).  These guys laid it down without even a fraction of panic (which, believe me, is an emotion that one can feel in this piece).  Click here to experience the glory.


Photo taken by the infamous Beethoven statue after the April 8, 2014 Contemporary Ensemble concert in Jordan Hall; coaches included John Heiss, James Sommerville, and Nicholas Kitchen.