Beethoven, Brahms, Mozart: Horn Quintet, K407; Two Horn Duos in E flat, K487

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COMPOSERS: Beethoven,Brahms,Mozart
WORKS: Horn Quintet, K407; Two Horn Duos in E flat, K487
PERFORMER: Andrew Clark, Roger Montgomery (horn), Geoffrey Govier (fortepiano, piano); Ensemble Galant
The horn has changed so enormously over 300 years that a recording such as this, where a rudimentary instrument is pushed, however expertly, to its limits, can sow doubts in the mind of even an enlightened listener. We hear what the contemporary audience heard; but is it what they wanted? The technical innovations that were on the horizon must have been occasioned by dissatisfaction, so might we be re-creating something that even at the time was considered inadequate? This does not invalidate Andrew Clark’s realisation or his achievement in ironing out much of the inherent unevenness of the natural horn in his debut solo recording. At times he achieves an elegant cantabile, and some remarkably fluent allegros, all done with lips and hand alone, free of any mechanism. Only occasionally do strange, incongruous metallic notes and glissandos remind us that here was an instrument that was crying out for mechanical assistance. Even on an early instrument, Clark has a muscular, forthright sound that is most at home in the Brahms Trio, along with a modern violin and piano. It combines less successfully with strings in the Mozart Quintet and the Beethoven Sextet where the horn, considering it faces backwards, is given an undue prominence in the balance. Christopher Mowat