COMPOSERS: Beethoven,Brahms,Dukas & Marais,Mozart
LABELS: BBC Legends
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Dennis Brain
WORKS: Quintet in E flat for Piano & Wind, Op. 16; Horn Trio in E flat, Op. 40; Horn Quintet in E flat, K407
PERFORMER: Dennis Brain (horn), Wilfred Parry, Cyril Preedy (piano), Max Salpeter (violin); Dennis Brain Wind Ensemble, English String Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: BBCL 4048-2 ADD mono
To become a living legend by the time you are 30 is a remarkable enough feat, but to do so as a horn player bespeaks a rare and unique talent. But then dip into the slow movement of Beethoven’s lovely Quintet at 3:41 and you will immediately hear why the name Dennis Brain still elicits such reverence, 43 years after his untimely death aged 36 while driving himself home from the Edinburgh Festival. There is first of all the inimitable sound: no one has made the horn sound so sheerly beautiful. And then just listen to the way he turns the phrase – a world of meaning in a handful of notes. Beethoven’s Quintet and the short solo items were recorded live in Edinburgh just a few days before his death in August 1957. The Beethoven is genial and relaxed, not always ideally polished. Dukas’s Villanelle shows the devil-may-care quality that he could bring to his playing. The way he tosses off the end is hair-raising, even if he doesn’t quite make the last note.
The Mozart and Brahms are from BBC broadcasts earlier in 1957. The strings in the Mozart are a bit rough and ready, but the horn playing is so effortless and natural that one can’t believe the sound is coming from frail human lips at all. The Brahms Trio is the gem of this CD, a performance that surpasses Dennis’s father Aubrey Brain’s classic recording. Noble, witty, darkly brooding and finally exultant, all in that molten, burnished sound. If you want proof of the legend, get this. Acceptable mono sound. Adam Gatehouse