For many musicians, playing an instrument provides an escape from reality. They become so deeply absorbed in the notes and rhythm that the rest of the world seems to disappear. For R.J. Kelley, the natural horn does even more: it allows him to travel back in time. This upcoming September, Kelley will take his audience with him to the 17th and 18th centuries as he performs a “concerto pasticcio” by Mozart with Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra.
Although Kelley was immediately entranced by the horn when he first picked it up as a child, he did not pursue the instrument until the early 1970s. During his tenure with Mr. Jack Daniel’s Original Silver Cornet Band, Kelley came under the mentorship of horn soloist, Lowell Greer, who re-introduced Kelley to the instrument. The two musicians experimented together in a variety of ensembles. Several years later, Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra asked the duo to perform in Handel’s Water Music and Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 1, and eventually Greer and Kelley moved on to become the orchestra’s horn section. After ten years, Greer left Philharmonia Baroque and Kelley has served as first chair ever since.
On September 22-25, Kelley will solo with conductor Nicolas McGegan in a “world premiere” horn concerto comprised of three movements by Mozart, being performed together in these concerts as a “concerto pasticcio.”. The first movement is assembled from several fragments of a concerto catalogued as K. 370b that Mozart began in 1781. The second movement is the Romance from Mozart’s Horn Concerto in E-flat Major, K. 495, which Kelley chose to include in the program due to its slower tempo. The concerto ends with a movement catalogued as K. 371, which was only recently published in its entirety in 1988 when sixty of the piece’s missing measures were found.
Kelley is also involved in several other projects this summer outside of Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra. He plans to play in a few festivals, the Orchestra of St. Luke’s Caramoor series, and some Broadway performances, including Spiderman and The Lion King. Kelley will also be doing a lot of work with the Manhattan Brass to help them prepare for their 20th season. And even when the summer madness is over, Kelley will barely have a second to breathe. After his final concert with Philharmonia Baroque he will catch a redeye to Manhattan to rehearse with the American Classical Orchestra the very next day.