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Horn Discoveries

Sarah Willis (horn), et al (Alpha Classics)

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

Horn Discoveries
Mason Bates: Mainframe Tropics; Bissill: Song of the New World; D Riniker: Velvet Valves; Wallendorf: Willisabethan Sarahnade
Sarah Willis, Klaus Wallendorf (horn), Kotowa Machida (violin), Philip Mayers (piano)
Alpha Classics ALPHA732   51:09 mins

Sarah Willis is one of the great horn ambassadors. Her all-embracing passion for the instrument has taken her all over the world and her various exploits can be enjoyed on YouTube and elsewhere. Subscribers to the Berlin Philharmonic’s Digital Concert Hall will know her as a star member of its horn section for the last 20 years, alongside such legendary exponents as Stefan Dohr, Radek Baborák and Klaus Wallendorf, who appears in this recital as both player and composer. Most importantly, she is a true virtuoso of one of the most unforgiving of instruments, equally at home in the long legato lines of Richard Strauss as she is in the acrobatics-without-a-safety-net of the Schumann Konzertstück.

Released originally back in 2014 by legendary horn manufacturers Gebrüder Alexander, Alpha have picked up the international rights to this captivating recital, captured in radiant sound in the Berlin Philharmonie’s Chamber Hall. Berlin Philharmonic cellist David Riniker contributes six inspired arrangements of (mostly) cantabile classics by Tchaikovsky, Dvořák, Bizet, Debussy and Schubert entitled Velvet Valves, while Richard Bissell, an ex-teacher of Willis’s at London’s Guildhall School of Music and Drama, exploits her exquisite lower range (especially) in the gloriously bluesy and cool Song of a New World.

Australian composer Mason Bates’s Mainframe Tropics, a dazzling horn trio in three continuous movements ‘inspired by digital and marine worlds’, offsets a reflective central evocation of marine detritus with infectiously rhythmic outer movements, while Wallendorf’s Willisabethan Sarahnade is a set of five colourful miniatures (each lasting less than two minutes) replete with musical in-jokes for both the general listener and horn cognoscenti.

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