Legacy – A Tribute to Dennis Brain
Works by Arnold, Britten, Maxwell Davies, R Panufnik, Poulenc and H Watkins
Ben Goldscheider (horn), James Gilchrist (tenor), Huw Watkins (piano)
Three World Records TWR 0009 49:18 mins
If a list was made of musical instruments whose status and lustre in modern times had been transformed by the skills of a single player, the horn and Dennis Brain would definitely be a contender for the top spot. When he died in a car crash in 1957, aged 36, the world lost a British soloist of astounding eloquence and technical agility, able to stay mellow and beautiful even while prancing through notes at a dizzying speed. Ben Goldscheider, in his early 20s, carries on this noble tradition in an album commemorating the centenary of Brain’s birth, blending works new and old, all written under the master’s shadow.
The magic starts with Huw Watkins’s purpose-built Lament for horn and piano, a wonderful beginner’s guide to the expressive colour range possible when a horn is allowed to sing, rage, and sigh. A similar emotional mix is found in Poulenc’s Élégie of 1958, a searing ten-minute masterpiece, most powerfully delivered here, and the programme’s highpoint. The music’s potency takes a dip in Roxanna Panufnik’s rather watery Sonnets without Words, instrumental versions of three Shakespeare sonnet settings, but climbs again in Britten’s anguished canticle Still Falls the Rain, featuring sensitive singing from James Gilchrist. Two short mellifluous horn solos complete the bill: Maxwell Davies’s striking and thoughtful Fanfare Salute and a roistering-cum-sorrowing Fantasy that could only have been written by Malcolm Arnold. Watkins’s piano accompaniments are incisive, but it’s Goldscheider’s horn, golden and glorious, that properly takes the crown.