Horn Review by Scott Hawkinson.
My Medlin B/C horn is so little. It doesn’t weigh anything. Apart from a valve cluster, the wide arc of the wrap, and a bell it’s hardly there at all.
I’ve played all sort of horns including legendary vintage American, British, and German horns. Some of these were little better or much worse, than others. Only this little Medlin B/C horn plays the way a horn should.
How did Jacob do it? The result can only come from talent, experience, and a mind that’s open to what’s really going on with an instrument. He is all focus and energy, like a retriever when its attention is locked on a ball.
He put the little horn together and took it apart. He handed me or Rick Seraphinoff the horn and took it back again after we’d played a handful of notes. He worked until the horn’s sound had an exquisite balance of resonance and projection, until the dynamic and color range was like a dream you once had, until each note had its slot and the pitch was on target; trimming something here, adding a brace there, removing or adding solder... I’m usually the pickiest person in the group when trying a horn, the one with the vivid observations, the one who notices the subtle problems a horn has. After a point, though, Jacob had gone beyond where even I could tell the difference.
I remember sitting in the workshop trying the horn.
“Hey, Jacob -- this note on the second valve is flat. I can’t get it in tune. The others on that valve are fine...”
“Here [Jacob cut a cork and wedged it in a gap between two tubes], now try it.”
The needle on the tuner locked dead center. Seeing the result, Jacob bustled to a spot in the shop and made a brace for that gap.
I’ve had to learn to play differently because the horn, unlike other horns I’ve played, actually works like it should. Every note blows straight and true, not one this way and another one that way like most other horns. The tone of each note, from the top of the range to the bottom, is perfectly identical and even. I don’t have to work so hard. When I see a forte or sforzando, for example, the right amount of extra air is enough to create a dazzlingly dramatic and colorful result.
The C trigger isn’t needed for high notes because the B-flat horn is so great. Notes, however, that are cloudy or nearly useless on a double, such as the G and F-sharp below middle C and the G and F-sharp an octave below that, are centered, in tune, and have characteristic horn timbre on the C trigger. If you play any C-crooked second horn parts in 19th century orchestral repertoire, that C trigger will make those woodwind players turn around and smile.
You won’t regret spending money on one of Jacob’s horns. You’re actually paying for the horn, not just a name and an attitude. The name will soon mean something too, but I’ll bet Jacob won’t change the way he works, except to get even better with experience (which is hard to imagine). For Jacob, it will always be about the horn and the horn player and the music.
May 16, 2010