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From viola to French horn - one Dohr closes, another opens

Culture

Have you heard the one about the German guy who plays the French horn who’s visiting Australia to perform with the Queensland Symphony Orchestra?

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Stefan Dohr is widely regarded as one of the most proficient French horn players in the business, and in addition to being principal horn with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, he is also one of the world’s most in-demand soloists.

Dohr is performing with the QSO tomorrow night as part of the Musical Sorcery Maestro concert at QPAC’s Concert Hall, where he will perform Richard Strauss’s ‘1st Horn Concerto’.

The program will also include French composer Paul Dukas’ masterpiece The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, which will be familiar to anyone who’s seen the  1940 Walt Disney film Fantasia, and Camille Saint-Saëns’ ‘Symphony No.3’ (better known as the ‘Organ Symphony’), which is most famous for Nigel Westlake’s reference of it in his score to the movie Babe.

Yesterday, when InQueensland caught up with Dohr, who has performed in New Zealand and Japan over the past couple of weeks, he was holed up in a Brisbane hotel awaiting test results to confirm he didn’t have coronavirus.

“I had a little cough and they were concerned because I was in Japan, and thought I should take a test, so that’s why I was at the hospital – I quickly made a test and the results will be out soon, hopefully,” he said.

Thankfully, Dohr has since received a clean bill of health and will be performing as planned.

Dohr started his musical education early in life, when his parents bought him a viola as a six-year-old, but he told InQueensland he fell in love with the French horn not long after.

“I was actually a viola player first, I started playing the viola when I was six, and then I heard this really famous horn player, Hermann Baumann, who lived in the same part of town in Essen, where I grew up.  Every year he played a Christmas concert and I thought, ‘this sounds so much better than my viola playing, I want to try that’.  Not that I was terribly good at viola at the time, but still.”

“I did both for a few years and stopped playing viola when I was about 15 and decided just to focus on the horn.”

Dohr is one of two principal horn players at the Berlin Philharmonic and said he enjoyed the diversity of being able to perform with his orchestra and also tour as a soloist and collaborator with ensembles throughout the world.

“We are in the lucky situation that we do have two principal horn positions and we can make our schedule ourselves, hopefully,” he said. “It gives me some time to travel around and play solo concerts and chamber music and it’s a good thing to have this freedom in the orchestra.

“I really enjoy this mix of playing orchestra, solo, teaching a bit and of course, chamber music.

“I just came from New Zealand, where I played the New Zealand premiere of Hansa Abrahamsen’s ‘Horn Concerto’.  The premiere was just a couple of weeks ago in Berlin and I’ve already played it in Japan and New Zealand.  I also have a little surprise if the audience wants an encore in Brisbane.”

For those who are unfamiliar with chamber music, Dohr said tomorrow night’s performance was a perfect place to get an introduction.

“I think just the sheer presence of a big symphony orchestra is a great experience and besides the acoustic input you have an optical input and you can really find out which instruments make which sounds and how their sounds combine.

“If you’re open-minded, just go along with an open ear and an open eye and you’ll enjoy it.”

Musical Sorcery is at QPAC’s Concert Hall tomorrow night from 7.:30pm. Visit qso.com.au for tickets.

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