Rookh Horn Quartet

Programme and performers

Michael Kallstrom – Head Banger

Alisson Kruusmaa – new work

Louise Harris – Dying Haunts

Violeta Dinsecu – Abendandacht

Jane Stanley – Lalla Rookh

Drew Hammond – Soliloquy

Alisson Kruusmaa – Three Night Songs
  I – Canon
  II – The Bells
  III – Lullaby
Violeta Dinsecu – Abendandach
Janet Beat – Harmony in Autumn (Prelude & Elegie)
Jane Stanley – Lalla Rookh
Drew Hammond – Soliloquy
Michael Kallstrom – Head Banger

Alisson Kruusmaa / Three Night Songs for horn quartet / 2023
‘Three Night Songs’ (2023) is a three-movement piece composed for the horn quartet. The initial impulse for this composition came to me while I was doing a residency at the Dutch National Opera in Amsterdam. Spending all my days at the opera house, required me to adjust my usual writing practice. So, instead of composing during the daytime, I would go to the opera studio every night and spend hours alone with the piano. It was the most inspiring experience being in this quiet and peaceful opera house as the sun would set and the darkness unfold. And then, at every hour, the church bells all around the city would ring and these hauntingly beautiful melodies would collide into one another. I wanted to remember this moment, so I created the ‘Three Night Songs’ called Canon, Bells and Lullaby.

Violeta Dinescu: Abendandacht (1985)
Composed after a trumpet player friend of Romanian composer Violeta Dinescu asked her for a piece only using specific notes, Abendandacht, or Evening Prayer, is a thought- provoking piece that gives a lot of freedom to the performers. Only a single melodic line is notated, with suggestions from the composer on approaches that can be taken. It could be played as written, as a ‘flexible canon’ without strict tempo, with free improvisation around it, as a call and response, reversed, aleatorically… it is a piece that exists without a frame, allowing the performers a creative role in responding to their circumstances at the time of the performance. Violeta Dinescu (was born in Bucharest in 1953. After taking physics and mathematics as her main sixth form examination subjects in grammar school (Liceul) Gheorghe Lazar, she studied composition, piano and pedagogics at the Bucarest Ciprian Porumbescu Conservatoire. A George Enescu scholarship enabled her to study, and she finished her studies in 1976 with distinction. After that she was a composition pupil of Myriam Marbe for a year; looking back, she describes this intensive year as a significant time in her life. From 1978 to 1982 she then taught music theory, piano and aesthetics at the Lyceum (grammar school) George Enescu in Bucharest.

Jane Stanley – Lalla Rookh
For solo natural horn and speaker
This piece was composed especially for performance as part of the Being Human Festival held in Glasgow in November 2017. The spoken text is constructed from lines extracted from a letter written by Lord Kelvin (William Thomson) to his sister Elizabeth written in 1874 in which he reflects upon his upcoming nuptials. The title comes from the name of Kelvin’s boat in which he sailed to Madeira, the Lalla Rookh. 

In writing this piece I aimed to showcase a range of playing techniques and expressive characters that are possible on the natural horn, and at the same time to react to some aspects of Lord Kelvin’s letter. The opening rhythm imitates the natural speech rhythm of the words “My Dear Elizabeth”. A bleak atmosphere is suggested by soft, stark and hesitant notes. Early on I explore the horn’s potential to create an oscillating effect where the player modifies a note with his/her hand moving in and out of the bell. This idea might be related to the gentle rocking motion of a boat anchored in a calm bay. Contrast is provided by phrases made up of short repeated notes, and loud slides up through the harmonic series to create a declamatory mood. There are a few reflective passages too, where chant-like melodies unfold, which link to Kelvin’s expressed feelings of optimism and gratitude. Another effect explored in the middle of the piece involves singing and playing simultaneously. Doing this produces additional notes that result from the sung tones interacting with the played note.
By Jane Stanley 


Louise Harris – Dying Haunts
This piece represents my first work with live acoustic instruments in over 15 years and has been an exercise in pure indulgence for me, one in which I’ve had fun just making the sounds I wanted and using those sounds to try to evoke a particular feeling. The sound of the French Horn has always been evocative of a particular time in my life – Sunday evenings as a child, in which I would sit in front of our slightly cranky living room gas fire and watch on our also slightly cranky tv both Jim Henson’s Storyteller and the BBC adaptation of The Chronicles of Narnia. It’s always Christmas when I recall this memory, though I suspect it rarely was (I’m not even sure those shows were on on a Sunday!). For me, though, this memory recalls a sense of contentment, warmth and uncomplicated joy that seems to be a little more difficult to come by as an adult and that, along with the slight murkiness and ambiguity I associate with nostalgia and remembering, is what I’m seeking to explore in this piece. 

Janet Beat – Harmony in Autumn (Prelude & Elegie)
An early pioneer in electronic music, Janet Beat’s career also included time as a freelance horn player, mostly with the City of Birmingham Orchestra, which went on to become the CBSO. With her deep knowledge of this most glorious of instruments, it is no surprise that she wrote several pieces featuring the horn, some with electronics, others without.

Janet’s only horn quartet, Harmony in Autumn, was written in 2005 and is dedicated to fellow horn player Jim Lowe, who was an influential figure in Birmingham’s musical life during her time as a player. The title is taken from a poem by Shelley, The Italian Serenade, which includes the line “There is a harmony in autumn, a lustre in the sky.”


Drew Hammond – Soliloquy

Written for the Rookh Quartet, Soliloquy was inspired by walks on the hills and beaches of Scotland. The work opens discursively with an irregular series of statements from the quartet, linked rhythmically and harmonically, but each a fragment of a conversation. One of the players drops out from this conversation, playing a repeated muted note, which disrupts the flow, and slowly the others join a new sonic fabric. When writing, I was reflecting on these long walks, and the process whereby my egoistic, inward thoughts are gradually drawn outwards to the world around me.  

By Drew Hammond


Michael Kallstrom – Head Banger
Written in 2001, Head Banger is one of two quartets composed for the TransAtlantic Horn Quartet. As the title suggests, Headbanger is about powerful rhythmic and melodic motives over a strong and steady pulse. The opening features two of the horns providing the motivic underpinning with the remaining two playing a longer, melodic theme in unison. While three of the horns maintain these rhythmic motives in parallel motion to evoke the riffs typical of heavy metal bands, another solos aggressively over this accompaniment in the middle section. After a quiet and more tranquil interlude, the opening statement returns and the work comes to a close with the quartet pounding out statements of the rhythmic motive.


Artist biographies

The Rookh Quartet began life in 2017 when four of Scotland’s horn players decided to get together regularly to explore – and expand – the horn quartet repertoire. The original plan did not involve doing any concerts – the idea was to get together regularly, to enjoy playing chamber music. This changed when the University of Glasgow offered the Rookh Quartet a lunchtime concert, and the group has since gone on to play in venues and festivals that include The Cathedral of the Isles, soundfestival, and Orkney’s St Magnus Festival, as well as joining players from the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Royal Scottish National Orchestra and Scottish Opera for the International Horn Society’s annual event in 2021.

The first concert also gave the group their name, as they gave the first performance of Jane Stanley’s Lalla Rookh, for natural horn, 2 horns, and narrator. The piece is based on a letter written by a former University of Glasgow staff member and amateur horn player, William Thomson…also known as Lord Kelvin. The letter was written as he was anchored in the harbour of Funchal, Madeira, on board the Lalla Rookh. His natural horn can be found in the Hunterian Museum, in the room directly above the University’s Concert Hall.

Find out more about the piece here in a video exploring Jane’s compositional process in writing Lalla Rookh.

Lauren is the third horn of Scottish Opera.  Before her move to Glasgow she worked as solo horn in the Mittelsächsische Philharmonie in Freiberg in Germany, whilst also completing a masters in solo performance in Dresden. She has spent time in Austria studying the Vienna horn with Hector McDonald (Vienna Symphony Orchestra), and prior to this completed her BMus (hons) at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London.

Lauren freelances in the UK and abroad, with many orchestras and chamber groups, including the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Royal Scottish National Orchestra and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra.

After studies at The Royal College of Music, London, Ian was appointed to the horn section of the Royal Ballet Orchestra. He also worked extensively as a freelance horn player in both England and Wales, notably with The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Halle Orchestra Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and The BBC National Orchestra of Wales.

He joined the horn section of The Scottish Opera Orchestra in September 2007 and also freelances frequently with other orchestras in Scotland. He is a founder member of the Rookh Horn Quartet.

Ian is also a qualified Piano Tuner and Repairer.

Stephanie studied at the Royal Northern College of Music from 2000-5. Following on from her studies Stephanie began her freelance career playing with orchestras including the Halle, BBC Philharmonic, Opera North, Chamber Orchestra of Europe, BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Philharmonia, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Scottish Opera, Northern Ballet and Manchester Camerata. She also played on tour with Grammy Award-winning singer Adele.

Stephanie began her current post as Sub-Principal 4th horn at the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra in 2009. She regularly participates in workshops and education projects with the BBC SSO including BBC 10 Pieces projects in primary and secondary schools and Tunes for Tots with pre-school children. Stephanie is also one of the regular coaches for the National Youth Orchestra of Scotland, and currently lectures at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, a post she has held since 2012.

Stephanie enjoys chamber music and as well as exploring horn music with the Rookh Quartet she frequently joins colleague from the BBC SSO for chamber concerts.

Born in Dundee, Andy Saunders grew up in Staffordshire where he began horn lessons as an excuse to miss science lessons! He studied Music at York University before moving back north to Glasgow to complete his Masters degree at the RSAMD with Hugh Potts.

After graduating he spent a season as Solo Horn of Slovenian National Opera and Ballet in Ljubljana, before returning to Glasgow to freelance. He now plays regularly with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Scottish Opera, Royal Northern Sinfonia, Ensemble Modern, Le Concert Olympique, Daniel’s Beard, and Rednote Ensemble.

Andy ran The Cottier Chamber Project, sits on the board of The Night With…, has been the Co-Chair of New Music Scotland, and is the Performance Consultant for the University of Glasgow’s music department.

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