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Jennifer Montone: A Young Woman with a Horn

December 19, 2014

It’s considered bad form to “toot one’s own horn” … unless of course that’s your job. And it’s a job that our principal horn, Jennifer Montone, performs exquisitely, as will be abundantly apparent to all those fortunate enough to be in Verizon Hall January 8, 9, or 10. With former Music Director Christoph Eschenbach on the podium, Jennifer will solo in Richard Strauss’s majestic Horn Concerto No. 1.

“It’s a great piece, very fun, very accessible,” Montone says. “Strauss was quite young when he wrote it. It’s a joy to play and listen to.” She notes that the work is similar to the famous horn concertos by Mozart in its Classical format. She tries to approach it with a nod to that Classical side, at the same time honoring the more operatic, tone-poem style Strauss made his own. 

And what about stepping out from the horn section she leads with such aplomb, and sitting in front of The Philadelphia Orchestra? “It’s exhilarating, humbling, and terrifying!” 

She’s kidding. Actually Jennifer says soloing is a wonderful experience, especially with Eschenbach at the helm, citing “the depth of his passion and his unbelievably genuine music making.”

At least one illustrious predecessor was thoroughly unnerved by the Concerto. Strauss’s father, a noted horn player, found the piece so difficult he declined the honor of performing the premiere!

Jennifer laughs when hearing that anecdote, and modestly says horn pedagogy has improved a lot since the 1880s when the elder Strauss first looked at the score. She concedes the work IS challenging, especially in terms of musicality and emotional depth. But she loves the combination of exuberance, vulnerability, and tenderness in the score. 

Horn aficionados will be triply blessed at this concert. In addition to the Strauss Concerto, and Schumann’s brass-filled Symphony No. 2, the program includes Strauss’s Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks, known for its wonderfully humorous signature horn tune, and Montone is really looking forward to hearing it. As featured soloist on the program, she’ll be handing the Eulenspiegel spotlight to her section-mate Jeffrey Lang, the associate principal. She says she doesn’t get to hear him play nearly enough, and promises he’ll be “incredible!”

That generosity of spirit is reflected in everything Jennifer Montone plays, whether soloing up front or leading her horn section. For a taste of the Strauss Concerto, AND to get your tickets, click here