Jonathan Boen  

A New Horn Concerto: From Concept To Recording - Part 2

Jonathan Boen
January 3, 2019

Editor's Abstract (Click to Hide)

In the first installment from this feature, Lyric Opera of Chicago Principal Horn, Jon Boen, just completed the premier performance of a new horn concerto he commissioned from composer, Jan Bach. This second, and final, article details the momentous challenges involved with producing a professional recording of the work featuring Jon and the Chicago Philharmonic.

Furthermore, in addition to the embedded audio clips from the finished CD, this article is enhanced with clips from the recording session and even a trio performance from a fundraising event designed to help subsidize the project's cost.

By the time you finish this article, you will have a crystal clear picture of exactly how much a project like this costs, how much personal risk is involved, and the amount of effort required to produce a professional orchestral recording. Sometimes, even inspiration can feel daunting, but the rewards speak for themselves.

- Drew McManus

Click to Play Editor’s Note: This article is enhanced with high quality audio clips designed to let you listen to what you’re reading about. Wherever you see a musical notes icon like the one at the top of this paragraph, click to hear the corresponding audio file (try the one above to see how it works).

Little did I realize in 1983 that Betty Butler was not finished with her support of the project. One day, in late 2001, Jim Berkenstock informed me that Betty had passed away. Although she was a person of modest means, Betty had left money in her estate to Symphony II (now known as the Chicago Philharmonic). Her children were consulted concerning the use of use of the funds, and they suggested a revival of the Horn Concerto. It was decided that Betty’s posthumous gift would be the seed money for a performance of the Horn Concerto, which was eventually scheduled for May 30, 2019, with the orchestra. This would be my chance to record the concerto since the rehearsal expense would be part of the orchestra budget, not a cost of the recording itself. However, I still needed to prepare a realistic budget and somehow raise the funds.

The success of this venture would hinge on the resources of my professional and personal contacts, which, by necessity, would ultimately expand . By the end of the project, my contacts provided me with:

  1. Budget and Grant preparation
  2. Fundraising advice
  3. Photography
  4. Graphic design
  5. Production and Engineering
  6. CD pressing
  7. Booklet printing
Chicago Philharmonic had already established a relationship with the Aaron Copland Foundation for Music from a previous recording project. Completing the application brought the entire project into focus. The requirements to receive a grant included providing the following information:
  1. Proof of an existing 501c3 performing arts organization
  2. Income/Expense statements for 2 years, plus the projected statement for the following year
  3. Name of the record label
  4. Name of the distributor
  5. Estimated date of release
  6. Quantity of first pressing
  7. List of all works to be recorded, including composer, performers and duration of works
  8. Projected budget

Chicago Philharmonic had previously worked with Equilibrium Records (an established label), Konrad Strauss (a producer), and Steven Lewis (an engineer) for a prior commercial recording. Chicago Philharmonic is a 501c3 organization. All contributions made on behalf of the project would be tax-deductible, which helped provide an incentive for donations. Examining budgets from comparable recording projects that Konrad had produced helped give me an idea of a realistic financial plan.

On advice from Equilibrium Records, the target length for the CD was approximately 75 minutes’ worth of music. The 40-minute Horn Concerto would be the focus of the recording, so we needed to choose an additional 35 minutes of music. The choices taken into consideration included:
  1. Historic links to the concerto
  2. Music featuring the horn
  3. Budget factors

Jan and I concluded that the remaining selections needed to be solo or small ensemble works in order to keep the costs down.

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Comments (Click to Hide)

Working with Jon and Laura to bring this project to fruition was a joy--and not just because of the music involved, or because they are fun people to be around, but because they understood what needed to happen for it to become reality.

Jon threw himself into the process whole heartedly, all the while supported and nudged by Laura, who kept him focused on the ultimate goal.

Too often, people want the end results, but are not willing to put in the effort. Jon and Laura invested their time, heart and soul into making the CD a reality. It is as much a tribute to their spirit as it is to the music of Jan Bach.
Sylvie on January 3, 2019 at 10:47 PM

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