Beethoven, Ries, Danzi

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COMPOSERS: Beethoven,Danzi,Ries
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
WORKS: Horn Sonata in F, Op. 17
PERFORMER: Thomas Müller (horn), Edoardo Torbianelli (piano)
Written for the famous virtuoso Giovanni Punto, Beethoven’s genial Horn Sonata of 1800 became one of his most popular pieces, prompting several other composers to produce works for the same novel combination. Both the Ries and the Danzi sonatas are affable pieces, inclined to be expansive and diffuse where the Beethoven is terse and compact, but always euphonious and idiomatically written. The cheery, easygoing outer movements of the Danzi enclose an attractive Mozartian Larghetto. But the Ries is the more memorable, with a first movement combining flashy virtuosity and distant, poetic modulations, and a central Andante that exploits the horn’s capacity for Romantic mystery. There is comedy, too, in all three sonatas here, relished by Thomas Müller, who milks the garish contrast in timbre between the valveless horn’s high and low registers, and between stopped and unstopped notes. But where required – as in the Larghetto of the Danzi – Müller skilfully coaxes a mellow, rounded sonority and smooth line from his notoriously recalcitrant instrument. Müller’s colourful, rhythmically vital performances are well complemented by the deft – if slightly too distantly recorded – playing of Edoardo Torbianelli on a delicate-toned Broadwood from the Beethoven-Haus collection in Bonn. An enterprising disc, recommended equally to horn aficionados and those who enjoy exploring early 19th-century byways. Richard Wigmore