An instrument in evolution, today's French horn bears little resemblance to the horns of the past. Even before it was first used in classical music, the horn was frequently found in religious ceremonies as a useful way of calling people to prayer, and of course played a vital role on the hunting field. Since then, the instrument has undergone vast transformation, the most important being the addition of valves, allowing players access to all notes rather than just the natural ones. Its first recorded usage comes around the end of the 16th century, when Cavalli's opera Le nozze di Teti e di Peleo calls for a 'chiamata alla caccia'. However, it did not appear as a solo concerto instrument until years later; one of the first examples is an anonymous Sonata da caccia, included on this release, with the horn playing hunt-like motives in a concertante relationship alongside strings and continuo.
The Baroque period saw a flurry of composers adding horn concertos to their repertoire, often in a group with other instruments. Telemann wrote several concertos and overtures that feature the horn. His Italian contemporary Vivaldi wrote two concertos for two horns, the second of which features here. Other lesser-known composers are also represented: the horn player Peter Damm has discovered and now champions neglected pieces for the horn repertoire, including concertos by Peter Johann Fick and Christoph Förster, who were both active in the first half of the 18th century. Their German contemporaries include Johann Friedrich Fasch, Johann David Heinichen and Johann Joachim Quantz, all of whom wrote a great quantity of horn music. Jan Dismas Zelenka, a Bohemian composer active in the same period, would later be championed by Smetana. His Caprice in F for two horns includes some playful writing between the two solo instruments.
Another Bohemian composer, Franz Anton Rösler – who would later Italianise his name to Francesco Antonio Rosetti – composed several horn concertos, and CD9 is given over entirely to these. He inspired none other than Mozart (found on CD6), possibly the most famous composer of horn concertos, whose highly idiomatic writing for the instrument has never been surpassed. Mozart's contemporary Haydn also finds a place, with his Concerto No.1 featured alongside a spurious Concerto No.2 generally attributed to the composer. Michael Haydn's Horn Concerto has received more attention recently, and is certainly no pale imitation of that of his older brother, beginning as it does with an unusual slow movement.
In the Romantic period, Carl Maria von Weber was the first to imbue the horn concerto with the spirit of the period, in his Concertino in E minor. He was followed by Schumann, who composed his technically demanding Konzertstück a few months after the Adagio and Allegro Op.70. Richard Strauss did not shy away from challenging repertoire; both of his horn concertos ask much of their soloist. Lesser-known Othmar Schoeck and Hans Georg Pflüger, both active in the 20th century, make up the last CD of this set, demonstrating why the renewed attention they currently command is very deserving.
This set features some of the biggest names of the horn world: Peter Damm is present not only as a performer but also as arranger. Australian hornist Andrew Joy is a very highly regarded performer; among others, he plays Pflüger's concerto, which he himself premiered in 1986. The young player Felix Klieser is an extraordinary musician; having been born without arms, he plays with his toes, on this CD of music by Haydn and Mozart described as 'remarkable' by Gramophone magazine. Czech brothers Zdeněk and Bedřich Tyslar are well known in their homeland for championing neglected Czech music; characteristically eastern European, they play on modern double valve horns, allowing for a superbly focused sound.
This 10CD box is unique in featuring not only the best of horn repertoire but also those unjustly neglected pieces that deserve to be rediscovered. Amateurs and aficionados alike will be highly satisfied with this set.
An extensive collection of horn concertos from several centuries. This set includes horn concertos by Telemann, Förster, Haydn, Beer, Vivaldi, Quantz, Zelenka, Heinichen, Fick, Reicha, Sperger, Von Weber, Saint-Saëns, Schumann, Lortzing, Fasch, Mozart, Fiala, Pokorny, Rosetti, R. Strauss, Schoeck, Pflüger: a true “Cornucopia”!
The horn as a musical instrument has developed considerably since its first use many centuries ago, when man blew on animal horns as signal or ritual. The many technical improvements led to the use of the horn as a versatile solo instrument in the baroque: its festive and jubilant character could be set off against a smooth and dolce cantabile.
Excellent performances by a.o. Peter Damm, Felix Klieser, Herman Jeurissen.
The booklet contains new liner notes, written by Philip Borg-Wheeler specially for this release.