LABELS: Dabringhaus und Grimm Scene
WORKS: Horn Quartet in E; Horn Quartet in F; Horn Trio in E; Horn Trio in F
PERFORMER: Deutsche Naturhorn Solisten
CATALOGUE NO: MDG 605 1029-2
Carl Oestreich (c1800-40), horn virtuoso and teacher, is a seriously obscure composer, hardly known beyond the horn fraternity. A great pity, since he is revealed here as a technically gifted, fluent and inventive writer for his chosen instrument, and much of this music deserves a wider audience than just horn buffs.
Beside the musical riches on offer, much interest derives from his life span, stretching across the period when natural horns were being ousted by the new-fangled valve instruments. These compositions would push the natural horn technique way beyond previous limits, so which instrument they were written for is very unclear. Was Oestreich luxuriating in the freedom the new mechanism provided, or a musical Luddite, determined to prove the natural horn could see off any competition? The German Natural Horn Soloists are of the latter opinion, and probably not just for musical or scholarly reasons, but simply because it is a bigger challenge and more fun. Realising that they will never achieve the homogeneous sound that modern ears demand, they compensate with rich musical characterisation, dynamic range, bravado and good humour. As the music gets faster and more chromatic, natural horns sound increasingly disadvantaged, but this only provokes the soloists to more audacious virtuosity to win the argument convincingly. Christopher Mowat