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A Devil to Play: One Man's Year-Long…

A Devil to Play: One Man's Year-Long Quest to Master the… (2008)

by Jasper Rees

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Enjoyable bits separated by dull stretches and a very great deal of repetition. Lots of horn trivia but he does a poor job of explaining essentials like transposition. Works by Brahms are listed under Schubert in the index. ( )
  middlemarchhare | Nov 25, 2015 |
This represents the dream of most of our Walter Mitty selves. I was in my mid-thirties when my son took up the trombone in school and, wanting to help him out, started French Horn lessons at the college where I worked. 20 years later he had long given up the trombone and I, after 15 years, gave up the French Horn, tiring (lazy, I guess) of the requirement to play every single day for 45 minutes to an hour just to maintain some flexibility in the lips. Skipping a couple days would set you back a week. I guess I also tired of being mediocre. I was what most would consider competent, good enough to play with local orchestras, but to get really good you have to practice hours daily. I did have the advantage of having played piano and organ for years so at least I didn't have to learn to read music. The worst part was transposing on the fly. I look forward to reading how Rees did. Got to admire his courage.
  ecw0647 | Sep 30, 2013 |
Rees is an engaging writer. The blend of memoir and music history is just right. I didn't feel that I totally understood why he picked up the French horn again in the first place, but I thoroughly enjoyed his narrative of what happened over the next year. ( )
  hagertyhartfeldt | Jul 12, 2011 |
41/2009. I love books about the technique and technology of music and this one imparted a lot of horn lore, for instance, players have to be able to transpose on sight. And after Handel the horn quickly supplanted the trumpet as the main brass instrument of orchestral music - forcing trumpeters to go off and invent jazz, as Rees flippantly says. There's a nice arc in his progress from restarting the instrument to playing a Mozart concerto at the Barbican, which would have made an excellent reality TV show, or series of them on different orchestral instruments. You'll want to move quickly through the twee and unfunny '1066 and all that' sections on the horn's origins and use in medieval battle to get to the better written second half. (Stockmann, this spring)
  athenasowl | Nov 1, 2009 |
Did you play a musical instrument in high school, only to give it up as soon as you graduated? Did you ever wonder what it would be like to pick it up again and perform in front of other musicians?

Well, Jasper Rees did. As he approaches the age of 40 he pulls his old french horn out of the case and attends the British Horn Society's annual convention. After playing in the mass horn choir, he decides to start practicing again with the goal of playing a solo at next year's convention. This book is about his journey of relearning the horn. Along the way he meets and takes lessons with some of the horn world's most famous players. Intertwined with his personal journey is a history of the horn.

I am a professional horn player and I found this book pretty amusing. The author definitely embraces the horn and I would have to say becomes a raging "horn-dork". This was mildly annoying to me because I know too many people who are like this. But, it was fun to read since I've met and worked with many of the horn players in the book. I even attended the "horn camp" that he attends - twice. (Who's the horn-dork now???)

Anyway, if you ever played the horn you will probably enjoy this book. Or if you remember your high school band days playing any instrument, this book may give you a few laughs or possibly a little inspiration to give it another go! ( )
  japaul22 | Mar 29, 2009 |
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One Sunday afternoon I found myself crammed onto a stage with sixty-nine other people.
I don't understand where obsessions come from, but I do understand that they are tidal: they rise up and engulf you and then, for some reason, at a certain moment they retrace their way toward the horizon and out of your life, often forever.
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From HarperCollins: "A Devil to Play is his third book. It was published in the U.K. as I Found My Horn."
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0061626619, Hardcover)

In the days before his fortieth birthday, London-based journalist Jasper Rees traded his pen for a French horn that had been gathering dust in the attic for more than twenty-two years and, on a lark, played it at the annual festival of the British Horn Society. Despite an embarrassingly poor performance, the experience inspired Rees to embark on a daunting, bizarre, and ultimately winning journey: to return to the festival in one year's time and play a Mozart concerto—solo—to a large paying audience.

A Devil to Play is the true story of an unlikely midlife crisis spent conquering eighteen feet of wrapped brass tubing widely regarded as the most difficult instrument in the world to master—an endearing, inspiring tale of perseverance and achievement, relayed masterfully, one side-splittingly off-key note at a time.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:02 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Jacob Rees tells why he took up the French horn again at the age of 39-and-three-quarters and persevered to play in front of a packed London auditorium and perform a Mozart concerto on this notoriously treacherous instrument. He also relates the story of man's first musical instrument, and its journey from the walls of Jericho to Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, from the hunting fields of aristocratic France to the heart of Hollywood.… (more)

» see all 2 descriptions

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