Mozart: Horn Concerto No. 1; Horn Concerto No. 2; Horn Concerto No. 3; Horn Concerto No. 4

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LABELS: Crystal
WORKS: Horn Concerto No. 1; Horn Concerto No. 2; Horn Concerto No. 3; Horn Concerto No. 4
PERFORMER: John Cerminaro (horn); Seattle SO/Gerard Schwarz
John Cerminaro has been principal horn in the New York and Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestras, and now holds the same position with the Seattle SO. From his appearance in the photograph on the booklet, he must now be in his fifties, and he makes the point in the booklet notes that this is an advantage, ‘since the Mozart concertos seem to require the utmost in refinement and experience rather than, shall we say, youthful enthusiasm’. His playing certainly does have refinement, but it is almost as if the music has been refined out of it. The tone is amazingly even in all ranges of the instrument, but I feel that this has been achieved at the expense of character. There is a difference between serving the music and hiding behind it, and, for a lot of the time, Cerminaro’s playing is so unassuming that not only he, but also Mozart disappears. Those little inflections of phrasing, tempo, dynamics and colour which turn a reading into a performance are almost entirely absent, and it’s surprising that someone who has played in the big, bad, brassy New York PO is so reticent. He’s not helped by the lumpy, inelegant playing of the Seattle SO: their recordings of 20th-century American music have been justly praised, but Mozart is clearly uncomfortable territory for them, as it is for most full-size orchestras nowadays. It feels like a cop-out and a cliché to recommend Dennis Brain’s classic mono recording as the benchmark, but benchmark it is. If you must have stereo, go for the youthful enthusiasm of David Pyatt (Erato). Martin Cotton