About Life in Flow:Flow in Life

Thursday, August 4, 2011

A Devil to Play

I love summer for many reasons. I like hot weather, being outside, having a garden, having time off from work.  One of the best parts of summer is catching up on my reading. One of the books I read this summer I had on my reading list for quite awhile. A Devil to Play, by Jasper Rees, is subtitled  "One man's year-long quest to master the orchestra's most difficult instrument," which is, of course, the horn.  It is a very enjoyable book. Jasper Rees is a British journalist who had played horn as a boy, but quit. When he decides to take it up again at age 40, he sets himself the ridiculous goal of playing a solo at the British Horn Society annual conference in a year. Farfetched as it seems, he pursued his goal using his journalist skills to interview every professional horn player he could find. His well-written book includes stories of his horn lessons as a boy, historical anecdotes about the horn and player players, and his descriptions of his own performances. These descriptions made me wonder how he could possibly reach his goal, and sometimes why he was persisting with reach that goal. I felt for him as he continued to plow through less-than-optimal performances. However, he has a great sense of humor, which comes through throughout the book. As I was reading the book I kept interrupting other people, saying, "Listen to this!" to share funny and fascinating bits.

Quite a few famous horn players and other musicians make an appearance in the book, and I learned the back stories about, for example, the horn player for whom Mozart wrote his concertos, and Dennis Brain's family. I learned quite a lot about horn playing in Britain, too.
As a horn player, I really enjoyed this book. I think other musicians might also find it interesting, as well as music lovers in general. The title comes from a line in a "song" by Flanders and Swan. The tune for the "song" is the Rondo of Mozart's 4th horn concerto. The British title of the book is "I Found My Horn," another line in the "song." I think Flanders and Swan deserve their own post, so stay tuned!

No comments: