CD: From the Great Lakes

Stacie Mickens & Friends
MSR Classics

From the Great Lakes 
Music for Horn 

Horn Soloist: Stacie Mickens 
Diane Yazvac, piano; James Wilding, piano; Ken Heinlein, tuba;
Caroline Oltmanns, piano; François Fowler, guitar; David Morgan, bass;
D. Jack Ciarniello, piano; Rex Benincasa, percussion

MSR Classics

Recorded in June 2019, Stacie Mickens has produced a groundbreaking CD of world première recordings of original music for French horn. In the six movements of Susan Mutter’s Ages, we hear an artist in complete control of her instrument, portraying the playful nature of a six-year-old, the defiance of a teenager, determined to do it their own way, the monotony of a relentless job, the joy of retirement and spending valuable time with family and, finally, the end of life’s journey as life slowly fades away.

The remaining three pieces on the album are all original works, specially written for Stacie. Distill by James Wilding, an extended version of a musical sketch, is a piece of contrasts that starts with a calm and lyrical beginning, allowing the soloist to display the flexibility and singing quality of the horn to its fullest. The music becomes more tumultuous in the middle section, showcasing the more forceful side of the instrument, before returning to the lyricism of the opening.

Melencolia, also by James Wilding, is inspired by Albrecht Dürer’s etching of the same name. Like the etching itself, the piece has a brooding quality followed by a more triumphant section. The tuba and horn work seamlessly together in dialogue over the impressionistic piano accompaniment – a perfect balance created between the talented trio.

David Morgan’s When Penguins Fly, a rhapsody for horn and wind ensemble, provides the perfect conclusion to this disc. The music cleverly depicts the social side of this fascinating creature and its ability to thrive in some of the world’s harshest climates. The penguin in the music is represented by the horn, a role which Stacie delivers with true majesty, showing just how versatile the horn can be blending with the ensemble in both classical and jazz styles, whilst also soaring in the upper echelon of the instrument as a lyrical soloist.

Stacie Mickens, Associate Professor of Horn at the University of North Texas, shows masterful control of her instrument throughout the CD, displaying the diverse sound quality of the horn with beautifully lyrical and melancholic playing in the music of Susan Mutter and James Wilding. For me, the highlight of the disc is When Penguins Fly – a work dedicated to all young musicians in the pursuit of excellence. With this album, Dr. Mickens proves to be the perfect example of what they should aspire to.



This review appeared in the December 2020 edition of BBW. For more reviews, articles and news subscribe to BBW Digital, available to read online (annual subscription: £30), or subscribe to BBW's printed magazine delivered by post: £40 (UK); £68 (Europe); £81 (Rest of the World). Alternatively, receive both the Digital and printed editions combined: £55 (UK); £83 (Europe); £96 (rest of the world) - saving 50% on the Digital edition! Click here to subscribe!

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