WORKS: Horn Concerto No. 1 in E flat; Oboe Concerto; Duet Concertino; Andante in C for horn & piano; Stimmungsbilder (excerpts)
PERFORMER: Dale Clevenger (horn), Larry Combs (clarinet), David McGill (bassoon), Alex Klein (oboe); Chicago SO/Daniel Barenboim (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 3984-23913-2
In a rather uncertain programme of Strauss early and late designed to let his Chicago principals shine, Barenboim gives us an ‘Indian Summer’ sandwich; the bread and butter of the youthful composer’s works for horn, orchestra and piano tastes better than the over-meaty filling. Right from the opening cello shakes, the Oboe Concerto’s first movement is far too slow and ponderous for the music’s fresh springs to rise to the surface, and Alex Klein’s tone is not best suited to the dry, up-front recording. He does at least show bel canto artistry in the long phrases of the central Andante, and hits a spectacularly bright top F in the first of two splendid cadenzas. Nothing so brilliant comes from the delicate palette of clarinettist Larry Combs in the Duet Concertino, which badly needs to flash a few more teeth in the prolix finale. Interestingly Barenboim lets the opening sextet take over several of the full string passages well into the dreamy first movement.
The orchestra’s veteran first horn Dale Clevenger is the real star of the show, his full and even legato justifying another over-leisurely slow movement in the First Horn Concerto (Fafner singing in his sleep, perhaps; but a very handsome dragon it is too). Barenboim makes his orchestra answer back with grand gestures suited to the flamboyant young composer, and fills the early piano-writing at the end of the disc with lively inflections. The conspicuous absentee here, of course, is the Second Horn Concerto; and as a compendium of concertos at much the same price Decca’s set hits the mark far more frequently. David Nice