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Ida Gotkovsky and Her Concerto: A Unique Opportunity.

Any horn player interested in competing in the International Horn Competition of America in the university division has certainly perused the repertoire list by now. The third round consists of popular horn concertos like the two by Richard Strauss or the Gliere Horn Concerto. However, one option is less familiar: Ida Gotkovsky's Concerto for Horn. If this obscure piece by a lesser-known composer piques your interest, you will be disappointed to learn that there is not much available information about the composer or the piece. The horn concerto is not commercially recorded, and Google searches about the piece bring up, at best, a video recording of Gotkovsky's Concerto for Saxophone. Through a short study of Gotkovsky, her style, and the concerto itself, the savvy horn player can use ingenuity and artistry to produce a compelling performance of this distinctive concerto.

Composer Background

A French national, Ida Gotkovsky was born in 1933 in Calais, France, where she spent most of her childhood. Her family no doubt encouraged her own musical talent; her parents both played the violin, and her sister and brother went on to be violin and piano performers, respectively.

Gotkovsky attended the Paris Conservatory and studied composition with the French masters Olivier Messiaen and Nadia Boulanger. By age 23, Gotkovsky received her first of twenty-three awards and commendations for her compositions. These prestigious honors include the Prix Lili Boulanger, a prize given to "aid composers ... of exceptional talent and promise," (2) Prix Blumenthal, a grant for "promising young French artists," (3) and the Medal of the City of Paris.

Over the course of her career, Gotkovsky composed for nearly every genre: orchestra, wind ensemble, opera, ballet, concertos for a large variety of instruments, chamber music, choral, vocal, and even a piece for solo accordion. Gotkovsky wrote most prolifically for the saxophone, both as a solo and chamber instrument. Perhaps her most well known piece is Brilliance for alto saxophone and piano (1974). Other notable saxophone works include Quatour de saxophones for four saxophones (1983) and two concertos for saxophone and orchestra (1966 and 1980). Her most recent composition is Quatour de clarinettes for four clarinets, written in 1998. Like her teacher Olivier Messiaen, Gotkovsky was less concerned with a tonal center and structure. Instead, she focused on tone color and overall musical effect.

The Horn Concerto

Gotkovsky's horn concerto, written in 1983, is one of the last concertos she wrote. Although the piece only lasts about six and a half minutes, it demands a high level of virtuosity. No movements are notated, but the piece has three recognizable sections. The opening of the piece is the most lyrical; intensity quickly builds as the piece grows in tempo and speed before languidly descending to the lowest depths of the register. After a brief piano interlude, the second section begins with an insistent repeating pattern that increases in complexity with every new entrance. At one point, the meter changes each measure, sometimes alternating between compound and duple rhythms. A long cadenza dominates the third section of the piece. The cadenza is particularly tricky, full of 16th and 32nd rhythms that skip in varying intervals. The conclusion of the piece expands upon a two beat motif, shown below:

Gotkovsky ornaments, stretches, and modifies this motif greatly but always keeps it intact. She plays with several alterations of the motif before drawing the piece to a very soft, high close.

Pieces for Inspiration

Though you are unlikely to find a reputable recording of the horn concerto, you can find good recordings of some of her other works. To get an idea of how Gotkovsky writes for brass instruments, listen to Ava Ordman play Gotkovsky's Concerto tot Trombone on the album It's About Time For inspiration on how to approach file lengthy cadenza section, listen to the album Chalumeau to hear Caroline Hartig play Gotkovsky's Solo Clarinet Sonata. Finally, to experience harmonies and tone colors that are quintessentially Gotkovsky, listen to the Oasis Quartet play her Saxophone Quartet on the album Glass, Escaich & Gotkovsky: Oasis Quartet.


The fact that little is known about Ida Gotkovsky or her horn concerto presents both a challenge and a unique opportunity for any International Horn Competition participant this August. The lack of commercial recordings of Gotkovsky's Concerto prevents a performer from learning file music by ear or from borrowing musical interpretation ideas from trusted horn performers However, this also provides the occasion for a competitor to explore a musical interpretation that is entirely original.

International Horn Competition of America

2017 IHCA University Repertoire

FIRST ROUND (two works required)

1. Your choice of the first movement of any of the Mozart concerti or the new, complete version of the Mozart Concerto Rondo (short version not allowed).

2. Your choice of one of the following

Eugene Bozza: En Foret

Paul Dukas: Villanelle

Randall Faust: Rondo

Johan Kvandal: Introduction and Allegro

Laurence Lowe: 3rd Movement from Sonata No. 1

Louis Piantoni: Air de Chasse

Robert Planel: Legende

Camille Saint-Saens: Romance op. 36


Your choice of one of the following unaccompanied pieces

Samuel Adler: Canto XI

Paul Basler: Cantos

Sigurd Berg: Horn Lokk

Randall Faust: Harmonielehre

Otto Ketting: Intrada

Bernhard Krol: Laudatio

Tim Martin: Lament (the best performance of this work will receive the Gretchen Snedeker Prize)

Vincent Persichetti: Parable VIII

Verne Reynolds: Elegy


Your choice of one of the following complete concertos

Anthony DiLorenzo: Phoenix Concerto for Horn

Reinhold Gliere: Concerto, op. 91

Ida Gotkovsky: Concerto

Richard Strauss: Concerto No. 1 or Concerto No. 2

Kerry Turner: Concerto for Horn "The Gothic" (not the Low Horn Concerto in F)--obtained by emailing the composer


Gotkovsky, Ida. Concerto Pour Cor et Piano. Paris: Gerard Billaudot, 1984.

Heim, Amanda Marie. "Using Post-Tonal Analytical Techniques for a Better Performance of Ida Gotkovsky's Quatour de Saxophones." DMA diss., University of North Carolina at Greensboro, 2011.

Ida Gotkovsky headshot. Digital image. Retrieved March 30, 2017. txt_biographie-Ida_Gotkovsky.html.

Pendle, Karin Anna. Women and Music: A History, Second Edition. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2001.

Siegel, Michele. "Florence Meyer Blumenthal." Jewish Women's Archive. Retrieved March 25, 2017).

Surman, Patricia Jovanna. "Ida Gotkovsky's Eolienne Pour Flute et Harpe in Theory and Practice: A Critical Analysis." DMA diss., University of North Texas, 2010.

"The Lili Boulanger Memorial Fund." University of Massachusetts Boston. Retrieved March 17, 2017.

Noelle Limbird is an active horn player in the Front Range region. She maintains the principal horn position with Stratus Chamber Orchestra and Longmont Symphony Orchestra, and also plays with other musical groups throughout the area. Limbird studied with Susan McCullough at the University of Denver, where she received her Bachelor of Music and Master of Business Administration degrees. She currently studies with Michael Thornton at the University of Colorado-Boulder, where she is pursuing her Master of Music degree.


(1) Ida Gotkovsky headshot, digital image, 2000-2017, textes_versionFR/txt_biographie-Ida_Gotkovsky.html.

(2) "The Lili Boulanger Memorial Fund," University of Massachusetts Boston, lili_boulanger. This award is granted in memory of Nadia Boulanger's sister, Lili, who was also a composer.

(3) Michele Siegel, "Florence Meyer Blumenthal," Jewish Women's Archive. (retrieved March 30, 2017).

(4) Ida Gotkovsky, Concerto Pour Cor et Piano (Paris: Gerard Billaudot, 1984).

Caption: Fig. 1. Photos of Ida Gotkovsky. (1)

Caption: Fig. 2 Excerpt from the conclusion (4)
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Author:Limbird, Noelle
Publication:The Horn Call
Geographic Code:4EUFR
Date:May 1, 2017
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