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Horn & Piano – A Cor Basse Recital

Teunis van der Zwart (horn), Alexander Melnikov (piano) (Harmonia Mundi)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

Horn & Piano – A Cor Basse Recital
Beethoven: Horn Sonata; Danzi: Horn Sonata; Punto: Horn Concerto No. 1; Ries: Horn Sonata
Teunis van der Zwart (horn), Alexander Melnikov (piano)
Harmonia Mundi HMM 905351   74:20 mins


Teunis van der Zwart catches the Beethoven Sonata’s bold outgoing start, and uses open and stopped notes to add character and colour. He says that the whole programme is a tribute to Giovanni Punto, whose playing inspired Beethoven in the first place, and he makes the case for ornamentation in the repeats, a line which Alexander Melnikov also follows, and which never becomes excessive nor gratuitous from either player.

Punto’s favoured instrument was the cor basse, and Van der Zwart adopts a wide mouthpiece to create what he describes as a more velvety sound in the low register. In the Ries, that’s echoed by the round and fruity bass of the fortepiano, a different instrument from the one in the other works. It’s also better balanced in the texture: coming to the Punto directly afterwards, the keyboard is slightly too distant, as it was at the start of the Beethoven. On the evidence of this concerto, Punto wasn’t the most interesting of composers, and much of the work shows off technique, rather than having any substance. It does give Van der Zwart a chance to play a few horn chords in the cadenza, although these are tamer than his note might suggest.

Musically, the Danzi doesn’t evade sequence and formula, but the performers are alert to expressive opportunities, especially in rhythm and pulse, which never become straitjacketed. This can lead to loss of ensemble, but better that than robotic slavery to the metronome.

Martin Cotton

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