Hervé Joulain Q&A Klassiske Dage 2020


Who is Hervé Joulain?

I was born in France on the West coast (La Rochelle). I started playing the horn at the age of 7, but this is my grandfather who proposed me to choose this instrument. He actually started me, even as violin player! He has been a good teacher, better than others supposed professionals.

Then I moved to Paris to find the best scholarship possible in France. Still today playing an instrument I didn’t choose myself is to me an advantage, trying mostly to use it to make music, more than finding an inner pleasure.

Since 2011 I have been back in Paris at the Orchestre National de France as principal. I sometimes also play in Italy – Italy is just a marvelous place for practicing!

Which projects are you working on right now?

My biggest recent project was definitely my Horn book, working and thinking on it for 35 years, and once jet lagged in Korea, I decided to finish it working every night for ten days.

It has been a real joy, in the feeling of giving birth of something hopefully useful! haha, seriously a great font of happiness in finding the best tricks for being technically the most efficient nowadays on a horn. 

Recent recordings: A recital just released called ”Melodies” (17 original Horn themes). I am bringing some copies [to Klassiske Dage in Holstebro]! 

Another ultimate this summer about french music for Horn and Piano, then looking forward about a beautiful piece for violin, cello, horn and piano by Sebastian Fagerlund released soon by Bis records.

The horn / French horn / waldhorn is rumored to be very difficult to play. Please tell us about the instrument?

In the brass family, the Horn is quite difficult to play, I guess because of its length:  4,5meters with a conic tube. This means that no one sound is properly very easy to catch.

The best technique I know is to control the pressure of air, in order to impose the more any pitch to the instrument, who is then only a loudspeaker. At the end the process is close to the singing one. I am actualy always trying to sing in the instrument, in the desire to find ease, and natural phrasings.

Not having myself chosen the horn, I am guessing playing without thinking about all that heavy part.

At the Klassiske Dage festival you are going to perform Richard Strauss’ “Horn Concerto no. 2”. What should we expect?

When discussing the program 2020 with Janne Thomsen, we were hesitant about playing either the first concerto (written by Richard Strauss at the age of 18.) or the second, written maybe a year before Strauss passed away.

Both were exciting to me, but now that we decided for the 2nd, I have to say that this piece is so well representing the art of the great R. Strauss that I am fully happy.

In the orchestration (not a huge orchestra size, but all winds in it) you feel very well a composer in the achievement of his art. Any rich modulation is so well done that the listener is automatically attracted by the genius and entering in a wonderful world where he can make the most beautiful dreams.

The Horn part is challenging, but at the same time, completely in a melodic and thematic mood, so you never feel alone or pushed away from the orchestra. Slow movement, is like a symphonic piece where the horn is just commenting or discussing with other soloists in the orchestra. The last one is sparkling, and typical of Strauss’s music especially his operas.

You have performed at a lot of small venues and festivals in many countries. Is this different from performing with a symphony orchestra?

Playing music will be always the same thing everywhere in the world; you don’t have somewhere a better audience. I want to respect the listeners everywhere in the world.

But performing as soloist with 50 or 60 musicians behind you is slightly changing your basic way of playing, already because of the loud dynamics you should develop. Also any small phrasing, change, color should be exaggerated in order to be understood. This is for every artist something to experience, only for the reason to learn a lot about ourselves. I had the incredible chance to perform solo with more than 100 orchestras, and this is every time different and a somehow a new challenge… very very exciting!

Have you performed in Denmark before? Or maybe visited Denmark as a tourist?

With my former group Octuor à Vent Paris-Bastille, we had several invitations at Louisiana modern art museum near Copenhagen, it was every time a great fun to stay there and to make music in this exceptional location! I am keeping a great memory.

In June 2018, I came to your region to replace the horn player of the Midvest Ensemble, and it was a wonderful experience, all musicians are so good and so nice, then a marvelous weather. We also spent time watching the football world cup! I keep very nice pictures of genuine nature.

I have heard you are now making wine, so I should come again, even without projects!!!

I look forward to seeing you all.

Hervé Joulain