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Haydn • Mozart: Horn Quintet etc

Felix Klieser (horn); Zemlinsky Quartet (Berlin Classics)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

Haydn • Mozart
Haydn: Horn Concertos Nos 1 & 2; Mozart: Horn Quintet, K407; Four arias (arr. horn and string quartet)
Felix Klieser (horn); Zemlinsky Quartet
Berlin Classics 0302346BC   59:29 mins

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With the exception of Mozart’s Horn Quintet K407, these pieces are all arrangements. The Mozart, with its distinctive dark string ensemble in which the lone violin is outnumbered by a pair of violas, is in any case by far the most distinguished of the instrumental works here.

Certainly, not a great deal is lost in having the Haydn concertos performed in chamber versions, as here: in the First Horn Concerto the wind instruments in the original version are purely accompanimental, and they don’t play at all in the slow movement; while the Second Horn Concerto – which is almost certainly not an authentic piece by Haydn at all – is scored for horn and strings alone. Felix Klieser copes brilliantly with the concertos’ wide-ranging horn writing, and he gives a dazzling, risk-taking performance of the virtuoso finale of Mozart’s Quintet.

The transcriptions of Mozart operatic numbers are a mixed success. ‘Voi che sapete’ from The Marriage of Figaro inevitably sounds a little heavy on the horn, and the outer sections of Don Ottavio’s ‘Il mio tesoro’ from Don Giovanni also lack a certain grace and elegance (Mozart’s original scoring has them delicately accompanied by muted strings and pizzicato basses). On the other hand, Tamino’s opening aria from The Magic Flute is beautiful, and it forms an ideal showcase for the exceptional purity of Klieser’s tone. The same is true of the slow movements in the concertos on what is an altogether enjoyable disc. The members of the Zemlinsky Quartet offer fine support throughout.

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Misha Donat