Monday 23 September 2013

Fascinating: Voices from the Past - Volume 1 - horns

Voices from the Past: Anneke Scott
This fascinating new disc from Anneke Scott takes a selection of historic horns from the Bate Collection in Oxford and records music on them from the period each horn. The result is a history of the use of the horn in western music, and the way the improving technical capabilities of the instrument linked to the music being written for it. In an ideal world this would be a multi-disc set with music including Handel arias, and the Mozart and Strauss concerto. Though this recital is on a smaller scale, Scott has assembled a fascinating selection of music. She starts with a group of hunting calls by Marc-Antoine de Dampierre, followed by arrangements of Handel for two horns, then Joseph Haydn's trio for violin, horn and cello. Mozart is represented by some of his duos for two horns. There are two lesser known names, Heinrich Simrock and Ignaz Moscheles. The best known work in the disc is Schubert's Auf dem Strom, and Scott follows this with music by Saint-Saens, Paul Dukas and Richard Strauss (though not the concerto).

Marc-Antoine de Dampierre was a horn player to Louis XV, and Scott opens the disc with a selection of his early 18th century hunting calls from Tons de chasse et fanfare. She performs five, on a wide three-looped cor de chasse made by a French maker. The sound is vibrant, rather rasping and very evocative. It is not a sophisticated sound, but very thrilling and she gets a goodly number of notes out the instrument.

The eighteenth century saw numerous transcriptions and the collection The Forrest of Harmony, included a selection of arrangements of music by Handel for two horns. Scott and Joseph Walters play them on a pair of horns one by the English Maker, Bennett, and the other by the German maker, Haas. They are played without hand-stopping, just using the natural harmonic sequence of the instruments. They both have a very rounded mellow tone, but it is fascinating what the natural harmonics do to the harmony. The final movement gets positively virtuosic and is clearly very hard word.

Haydn's Divertimento a tre was written for the Esterhazy horn player, Carl Franz and consists of a Theme and Variations and a Finale. Scott plays it on an anonymous German instrument which doesn't have a tuning slide, so the player has to choose their crooks with care. She is joined by Marcus Barcham-Stevens on violin and Robin Michael on cello. The instrument produces a more rounded, deep sound. The theme and variations is stylish and the balance between the instruments works because the horns volume is less than a modern instrument's, though with a very distinctive timbre. The concluding Finale is a jolly romp, with some delightful interchanges between violin and horn (the cello does not get much of a look in) and finishes with something of a tour-de-force.

In addition to his other works for the instrument, Mozart wrote duos for two horns and Scott and Walters play four movements from the Duos for two horns KV 487. They perform on a matching pair of hand horns by the Courtois family. The instruments are more sophisticated than the one used in the Haydn with a more refined tone. The opening Allegro is a lively, jolly piece and there is a nice balance between the two players. The hand stopping brings an interesting colouring to the phrasing. The next movement is a gentle Andante, with a lovely shape to the phrases, followed by a lively Minuet. The final movement is a jolly romp with some nifty twiddly bits.

Heinrich Simrock (1754 - 1839) was the brother of the publisher Nikolaus Simrock. Heinrich Simrock's Thema mit Sechs Variationen for horn and harp dates from Simrock's period in Paris. Scott plays it on a cor-solo made by the influential Raoux family of makers and the instrument has the most modern sound yet on the disc. She is accompanied by Frances Kelly playing an anonymous singe action harp from 1800. The piece has great charm, with an interesting texture owing to the combination of horn and harp. It is a very lyrical work, and sounds as if it could be song transcription with some lovely high horn playing.

Ignatz Moscheles wrote his Introduction et Rondeau Eccosaie for the horn player Giovanni Puzzi. Puzzi was a fan of Callcott's radius horn, a fascinating beast aimed at combining all the possible crook combinations. Steven Devine joins Scott, playing an 1866 grand piano by Erard of London which is in the Finchcocks collection. The piece starts with a very evocative slow introduction, with some lovely hand stopping, though the main Rondeau is a bit banal.

Schubert's song An dem Strom is one of his final works. It was premiered in 1828 by the tenor Ludwig Tietze, the horn player Joseph Rudolphe Lewy and Schubert himself. Lewy was playing a valve horn, an instrument which had only been invented in 1814. Lewy was an enthusiast for the new technology, though he only had two valves, needing to use a combination of valve and hand stopping. Scott plays on a 19th century instrument by Thomas Key. The instrument makes a lovely fluid sound, still with the interesting colouration from the hand-stopping. She is joined by tenor James Gilchrist and pianist Steven Devine, playing a Viennese Conrad Graf piano of 1820 from Finchcocks. Scott's playing beautifully complements James Gilchrist's singing. There is a good balance between voice and horn, though the piano is more distant.

Camille Saint-Saens' Romance in F, Op. 36 was written in 1874 and remarkably still uses a hand horn. Scott plays it on a 19th century French instrument by Halari, accompanied by Steven Devine on the 1866 Erard. The piece is quite slight, but beautifully lyrical and Scott produces a wonderful range of colours on the hand horn.

Franz Strauss, the father of Richard Strauss, was a well-known horn player and, in addition to writing his first horn concerto for his father, Richard Strauss wrote his Andante in 1888 to celebrate his parents Silver wedding anniversary.  Scott plays it on an early 20th century valve horn from the Sachsische Musikintrumenten Fabrik, the instrument on the disc closes to a modern horn. She is accompanied by Steven Devine of the 1866 Erard.The movement may well have originally been intended as the middle movement of a horn sonata, a complex and lyrical movement, with some of Strauss's typically soaring melodies.

Finally, a Villanelle written in 1906 by Paul Dukas as a test piece for the Paris conservatoire. Though written for a valve horn, it requires the player to use hand horn techniques in the opening section. Scott plays it on an early 20th century Parisian instrument by Couesnon, accompanied by Devine on the Erard. Simply lyrical at the opening, utilising the colours of hand-stopping, the work develops into something more complex and fascinating.

I can't recommended this disc enough. Scott produces some stunning horn playing on a diverse range of instruments, impressing not only with her technical facility but with the sheer range of colours she brings to the music. She is ably supported her colleagues and the result is some entrancing and illuminating music making. Anyone who ever wondered what Mozart's horn concertos sounded like in Mozart's day needs to get this disc.

The disc is available on-line direct from the Bate Collection on-line shop.

Marc-Antoine de Dampierre (1676 - 1756) - Tons de chasse et fanfare, a une trompe (1734) [3.20]
Anon after Handel - From the Forrest Harmony for two horns(1733 -1744) [5.07]
Joseph Haydn (1732 - 1809) - Divertimento a tre for violin, horn and cell, Hob IV:5 (1767) [9.18]
Wolfgan Amadeus Mozart (1756 - 1791) - From Duos for two horns KV 487 (1786) [6.57]
Heinrich Simrock (1754 - 1839) - Theme mit sechs variationen (1805) [7.25]
Ignatz Moscheles (1794 - 1870) - Introduction et rondeau ecossais Op 63 (1821) [8.30]
Franz Schubert (1797 - 1828) - Auf dem Strom D.943 (1828) [9.12]
Camille Saint-Saens (1835 - 1921) - Romance in F, Op 36 (1874) [3.51]
Richard Strauss (1864 - 1949) - Andante, Opus Postumous (1888) [4.07]
Paul Dukas (1865 - 1935) - Villanelle (1906) [6.28]
Anneke Scott (horns)
Josteph Walters (horns)
Marcus Barcham-Stevens (violin)
Robin Michael (cello)
Frances Kelly (harp)
Steven Devine (pianos)
James Gilchrist (tenor)

Recorded 2011-2013 All Saints, New Eltham, Brunel University Studio, Finchcocks Museum, Luxury Noise and St Andrew's Church, West Dean.

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