British Works for Horn

Ondřej Vrabec, Hana Sapáková, Mio Sakamoto (piano), et al (Sheva Contemporary)

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CD British Horn

British Works for Horn
Robin Holloway: Partitas No. 1 & 2; Lament; Peter Seabourne: Mille Fiori; The Black Pegasus*; Encounters; Julie Dances
Ondřej Vrabec, Hana Sapáková, Daniela Roubíčková, Michaela Vincencová (horn); Mio Sakamoto (piano)*
Sheva Contemporary SH241   61:21 mins

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‘British Works for Horn’ sounds as if it ought to be a general survey (including, say, pieces by Michael Tippett, Peter Maxwell Davies and Richard Rodney Bennett). But instead it brings together music by two composers: Robin Holloway, who has now retired from teaching composition at Cambridge and has been responsible for a vast and rich output; and a former pupil of his, Peter Seabourne (b1960).

Holloway is represented by two Partitas for solo horn, stylised dance suites in the manner of Bach’s cello suites – the first, written for the late, great Barry Tuckwell, is a real virtuoso piece; while the second, dedicated to an Irish friend, includes a characterful ‘Irlandaise’. They are followed by a short but intense Lament for horn quartet.

By Seabourne there’s a resonant fanfare for horn quartet, Mille Fiori; an inventive suite, Encounters for two horns; a rhapsody for horn and piano, named after Odilon Redon’s dramatic painting ‘The Black Pegasus’, which begins and ends with driving nervous energy, and in between attains an uneasy repose.

Seabourne’s Julie Dances is a set of diverting solo miniatures inspired by nursery rhyme and named after the young daughter of the leading player on the disc, Ondřej Vrabec – principal horn of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra. He is a commanding presence throughout, full and varied in tone and at ease with the music’s ambitious technical demands. He is well supported by a trio of horn-playing compatriots and Mio Sakamoto, a purposefully rhythmic pianist. The recording provides a reverberant but clear ambience.

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Anthony Burton