Music News & Reviews

Australian musician happy to horn in on Chamber Music Festival of Lexington

For the past year, Andrew Bain has been the principal horn player for the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra. He's in Lexington for the Chamber Music Festival.
For the past year, Andrew Bain has been the principal horn player for the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra. He's in Lexington for the Chamber Music Festival. Lexington Herald-Leader

Andrew Bain thought he had landed in his dream job: associate principal horn player for his hometown orchestra in Adelaide, Australia.

"I thought, this is great," Bain said. "I got what I wanted, which was a job in an orchestra. It's in my home city and it's ideal, and that will be it."

Adelaide, with a population of 1.2 million, is nothing to sneeze at as the fifth-largest city in Australia and the capital of the state of South Australia. But as Bain's playing continued to improve, he was led to take his talents around the world, first to Germany and then to the United States, where he is now principal horn for the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra.

He came to the orchestra last year, about the same time another talent, Lexington native Nathan Cole, was joining the ensemble as associate concertmaster. That created the path that led Bain to Lexington this weekend as guest artist at the Chamber Music Festival of Lexington.

"He's a star in L.A.," says Cole, artistic director of the festival. "I've been looking forward to getting him here and giving us our first gleam of brass."

Bain says he was shocked when Cole approached him about being the guest artist one day at the L.A. Philharmonic's home, Disney Hall.

"I thought there were probably better people he could ask than me," Bain says. "It was very flattering, and, of course, I jumped at the chance because to play chamber music with him would be terrific, and he said the players that come and play are at a very high level. And I've never been to Lexington, so I really couldn't turn it down.

"That's the beauty of the U.S. is there's such a variety in the cities around the country that you don't get as much in other countries."

At least once this week, Bain got to explore the beauty of Kentucky by chasing a little white ball. He, Cole and violist Burchard Tang worked some golf into their music making. Cole notes that the shared passion for golf was incentive to invite his new colleague to Kentucky.

As a welcome to the Bluegrass, Cole has given Bain quite a horn showcase that includes two of the icons of the horn repertoire: Johannes Brahms' Horn Trio on Saturday night and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Horn Quintet in E-flat major on Sunday afternoon.

"I get to play lots of good stuff this week," Bain says. "We've got probably two of the best showcases for horn in the Brahms and the Mozart, and they cover so much of what the instrument can do and the different characters, and then the other pieces sort of fill in the gaps with a little modern flavor and give a little insight into what the horn can do."

The festival concerts at the Fasig-Tipton Sales Pavilion begin Friday night with Quintet for Horn and Strings by Phillip Hall, Bain's former colleague in the Adelaide Symphony.

"He was the principal horn when I was the associate principal horn," Bain says. "About seven years ago, he turned his hand to composing, and he's written several pieces for horn, horn and piano, horn and voice and piano, and was thinking he wanted to compose a piece that complemented the Mozart Horn Quintet." The Mozart piece will close the festival and, Bain says, "for a horn player is one of the joys to play."

Bain also will open Sunday's casual concert with two solo horn pieces, including Eric Terwilliger's reduction of Richard Strauss's tone-poem Till Eulenspiegel to a couple of minutes, with the horn playing all the parts.

"It's fun," Bain says, using a term that would seem to describe most of his Kentucky visit, including his first encounter with a hot Brown, that distinctly meaty, cheesy Bluegrass State concoction.

"I probably need to visit my cardiologist," Bain says, "but it was tasty."

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