It’s not every day that you come across a classically trained hornist with a flair for Jazz improvisation and who has played Wagner tuba at La Scala! Today we would like to introduce you to one such musician – Giovanni Hoffer. We chanced upon a video clip of Giovanni whilst browsing in one of the online Horn forums and were so impressed that we asked for an interview. Giovanni kindly agreed and what follows provides an insight into his musical life both as a performer and teacher. He also talks about the effect that the global pandemic has had upon his work.
Giovanni Hoffer: Bruckner, Gershwin & More
“I have been playing the horn for 37 years now (HELP!!!) and what is interesting is that I did not choose the instrument – it chose me. It wasn’t actually my decision because in middle school it was the only wind instrument available to play.
My home is Italy and my time is divided between playing in various orchestras and teaching. In 2018 I left Milan where I was a permanent member of the Orchestra of the Teatro alla Scala and now live in Bologna where I am delighted to be a permanent member of the Orchestra del Teatro Comunale di Bologna. I am also a member of the Lydian Sound Orchestra and play in several other musical groups including my duo with pianist Alessandro Altarocca (winner of the Monte Carlo International Jazz Soloist Competition) and our quartet. I love teaching and have a permanent Laboratory for Jazz in Bologna. I also teach in several international masterclasses.
I really enjoy playing the Wagner tuba and have performed on it on many occasions, including at la Scala in Milan with Zubin Mehta (Bruckner Symphonies and Wagner Operas). I would love to play this wonderful instrument in a Jazz ballad one day!
Life As A Hornist In Lockdown
The lockdown in March-May 2020 in Italy was total. My regular work as a hornist in theatre performances stopped when venues closed on 24 February 2020. There was no possible, legal way to see friends for rehearsals or jam sessions. So during this period I worked online with many dear colleagues. We kept ourselves and our students working. We even exchanged our warmup techniques, funny pieces to keep our spirits up and challenges to keep our minds working. It proved at times to be very inspiring and helpful.
My concerts scheduled for April, May and June were all cancelled and as I write this, they have not been rescheduled. Also the masterclasses that I usually hold each summer were downsized to online workshops or online live concerts.
In terms of teaching, I have kept in touch with all my students through recorded video lessons. Teaching Jazz online creates a lot of technical problems (delays) which are not easy to solve. So, I haven’t done little online teaching in that respect.
I especially enjoyed performing live on video as part of Italian Brass Week 2020 and performed “I loves you, Porgy” with my friend and internationally acclaimed pianist Alessandro Altarocca. It is a project based around the music of George Gershwin and other composers of his time (Alexander Borodin, Kurt Weill).
Between the two lockdowns which have so far taken place in Italy, I did start to play again in public but the number of concerts after the first lockdown was in no way what I would call a normal level. One particularly enjoyable concert was with the Lydian Sound Orchestra as part of Jazzrail 2020.
Here in Italy we are just now in the second lockdown, so theatres have had to close again. I plan to keep up contact with my students with recorded lessons and maybe make more solo music videos.”
Watch Giovanni Hoffer On Jazz Horn
Here are two of Giovanni’s horn performances from this year which we hope you will enjoy as much as we did.
Video 1 – ‘I Loves You, Porgy’ with Alessandro Altarocca (Live performance for Italian Brass Week 2020)
With a total runtime of 41 mins this is a fabulous introduction to two highly talented soloists. Giovanni welcomes viewers before they perform a series of 5 pieces starting with a wonderful version of ‘Prince Igor’ from Borodin’s Polovtsian Dances. Be sure to enjoy the great sound quality of this recording using headphones!
Video 2 – With the Lydian Sound Orchestra As Featured Soloist (Live performance for Jazzrail 2020)
Footnote: For any hornists or students interested in playing Jazz, here is an article called “The Modern Hornist Approach To Jazz” (pdf download) written by Giovanni Hoffer.