Arden Horn Quartets
While staying in Arden, West Virginia, Martin found himself thinking of other Forests of Arden, possibly in France, possibly in England, as mentioned in Shakespeare's As You Like It. Pondering earlier times of "bucolic delight," as he calls it, Martin has written this series of ten quartets, all featuring horns, the perfect vehicle for his imagined life.
The Arden Horn Quartets are a collection of ten quartets for French horns in F (both score and parts are in F). Each is a single movement lasting from 3 1/2 to 4 minutes. Even before their publication in 2017, these pieces were played and studied by horn players in the New York City area. Ever since they have enjoyed universal appeal among horn lovers.
I worked on all ten quartets in Arden and Philippi, West Virginia, in late spring, 2016, and completed them in January 2017. The horn group known as The Golden Horns premiered all ten pieces in the spring of 2017.
I awoke, and in my fading dream, I thought I was in the forest of Arden. After a moment of reflection I made the connection. Much of Shakespeare’s warm comedy, As You Like It, takes place in the Forest of Arden. Early in the play, Charles announces that the exiled Duke is “already in the Forest of Arden, and a many merry men with him….”
Although the settings of Shakespeare’s comedies are hard to determine, scholars seem to agree that this forest is “somewhere in France.” Perhaps this is the wooded area of the Ardennes, on the boundary between Belgium and France. There is another area just north of Stratford-upon-Avon, Shakespeare’s birthplace, which bears the name Forest of Arden. For me, this vagueness heightens the artistic fun. Of course the forest of Arden is in our imagination, an idealized pastoral setting, a place that references an earlier time of bucolic delight. Charles continues, “they fleet the time carelessly, as they did in the golden world.” Arden suggests ancient times when there were but few cares.
Let us imagine that we are part of a royal outing, perhaps on a picnic. Evening approaches, and at the edge of the forest, four musicians appear with hunting horns. What a perfect moment to enjoy a serenade. And what might this music be like? Here is my list:
Arden Horn Quartet No. 1 duration: 3' 30"
Arden Horn Quartet No. 2 duration: 3' 45"
Arden Horn Quartet No. 3 duration: 3' 30"
Arden Horn Quartet No. 4 duration: 3' 45"
Arden Horn Quartet No. 5 duration: 3' 30"
Arden Horn Quartet No. 6 duration: 4' 00"
Arden Horn Quartet No. 7 duration: 3' 45"
Arden Horn Quartet No. 8 duration: 3' 45"
Arden Horn Quartet No. 9 duration: 4' 00"
Arden Horn Quartet No. 10 duration: 3' 30"
Ordinarily, I would expect no more than one or two, or even three, of these pieces to be played at a single concert; however on special occasions perhaps all ten quartets can be played in order.
By the way, if you like music that sounds as if the old classical masters wrote horn trios and quartets rather than always for strings, have a look at my ten Viking Horn Trios, all published by Theodore Presser.