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Before Mozart: Horn Concertos by Förster, Haydn, Neruda, L Mozart and Telemann

Alec Frank-Gemmill (horn); Swedish Chamber Orchestra/Nicholas McGegan (BIS)

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

Before Mozart Horn Concertos by Förster, Haydn, Neruda, Mozart and Telemann
Alec Frank-Gemmill (horn); Swedish Chamber Orchestra/Nicholas McGegan
BIS BIS-2315 (hybrid CD/SACD) 66:05 mins


As soloist Alec Frank-Gemmill points out in his highly informative booklet note, Mozart’s works for horn are so exemplary in style that they virtually define the instrument. And while it would be unreasonable to expect any of the music included in this CD to achieve such lofty standards, it provides ample evidence that the solo horn was alive and well before Mozart redefined its expressive parameters. This is an outstanding collection, in which Frank-Gemmill’s stratospheric virtuosity, on three different instruments, is elegantly counterpointed by Nicholas McGegan’s buoyantly sympathetic direction. They open with an invigoratingly stylish concerto by Christoph Förster, which resolves a heartfelt central Adagio in a rumbustious finale, complete with authentic hunting calls. Telemann’s elegantly terse (eight-minute) D major concerto leans more towards the galant with its poised, triple-time finale, but the real fireworks start with the trumpet-like tessitura demanded by Johann Baptist Neruda in his E flat Concerto, composed around 1750. Employing a Johannes Finke high B flat horn, Frank-Gemmill surmounts the seemingly impossible with an extended upper range that will bring tears to the eyes (in every sense) of players of the modern instrument. Leopold Mozart’s D major Sinfonia da camera is an enchanting tour de force in which the horn plays first amongst equals with his string colleagues (one to a part). To finish, we have Haydn’s vibrant D major Concerto, written for the same Joseph Leutgeb who would become Mozart’s knockabout chum and the vital inspiration for his horn-writing. It concludes a radiantly engineered recital of heart-warming bonhomie and virtuoso sparkle.


Julian Haylock