Thursday 22 February 2018

Notable recital disc debut from French Horn player Ben Goldscheider

Ben Goldscheider - Debut - Willowhayne Records
Jörg Widmann, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Volker David Kirchner, York Bowen, Robert Schumann, Nikolaus von Krufft; Ben Goldscheider, David Hill; Willowhayne Records
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on Feb 14 2018 Star rating: 4.0
An imaginative debut recital from talented young horn player

French horn player Ben Goldscheider reached the final of BBC Young Musician in 2016 and studies with Radek Baborák at the Barenboim-Said Academy in Berlin. This new CD from Willowhayne Records is Goldscheider's recital debut on disc. Accompanied by Daniel Hill (piano), Goldscheider presents a diverse and imaginative programme with music by Jörg Widmann, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Volker David Kirchner, York Bowen, Robert Schumann and Nikolaus von Krufft. A programme which effectively forms a mini-survey of French horn music from the early 19th century to the present day.

Goldscheider starts with Widmann's Air for solo horn, which was written in 2005. Whilst unaccompanied, the piece makes use of the resonance of the piano with the sustaining pedal kept down. The piece starts out as very much an exploration of the horn's natural harmonic scale, and develops into something of a tour de force. Widmann creates almost a dialogue and it is difficult to believe that only one person is playing.

Nikolaus von Krufft (1779-1818) was born in Vienna and studied under Albrechtsberger. His Sonata for Piano and Horn in E major was written rather under the influence of Beethoven's sonata for the same forces. The opening movement is very classical and Mozartian, with Goldscheider playing with lovely legato tone and classical poise. It is a big movement, lasting over 10 minutes. The slow movement is more Romantic in style, with some fine long-breathed horn melodies, whilst the genial finale is certainly not uncomplicated.

Robert Schumann's Adagio and Allegro for Horn and Piano Op.70 is more well known. Goldscheider  and Hill make an evocative romance of the opening Adagio with Goldscheider making light work of the wide-ranging horn part and chromatic harmonies (Schumann's piece was, I believe, written for the relatively new valve horn). The lively Allegro has a lovely fluid tone and fine Romantic flexibilty to the playing.

The Sonata for Horn and Piano in E flat major, Op.101 by York Bowen (1884-1961) was written in 1937 and is something of a milestone of early 20th century horn repertoire. Bowen writes with highly evocative and richly Romantic harmonies, and the opening Moderato espressivo is powerful indeed and very much a duo for horn and piano. The slow movement, Poco lento maestoso is slow and thoughtful, getting quite dark at times, whilst the lively finale has a lovely rhythmic snap in the piano part and builds to a big Romantic Finish. Bowen was sometimes known as the English Rachmaninov, and whilst such tags can be unhelpful, this one does give you a hint of the sort of rich Romantic harmonic language that Bowen uses to fine effect in this sonata.

Volker David Kirchner (born 1942) is a German viola player and composer. His Tre Poemi were composed between 1986 and 1989, and the work derives from a Rilke song cycle which Kirchner wrote for horn, piano and baritone. Lamento starts rather as an invocation for solo horn, before the piano joins and the work becomes more dramatic. Kirchner writes with a rather evocative musical language, and the piece is rather striking. The second movement, Danza is lively and very mobile with rather a sense of narrative to the piece. Finally La gondola funebre is rather dramatic.

Goldscheider concludes the recital with Esa-Pekka Salonen's Concert Etude for solo horn, a piece which starts of rather thoughtful before exploring everything that a French Horn could do, and again we have explorations of that natural harmonic sequence. In a lovely programme note Salonen recalls his own French Horn lessons, age eight, with the great Finnish horn player Hoger Fransman and the Concert Etude was written for the International Holger Fransman Memorial Competition.

This is a very striking debut, Goldscheider plays with remarkable technical facility but more importantly a maturity which brings a nice depth to the Romantic repertoire. It is also a well put-together and rather fascinating progamme.

[I recently interviewed Ben Goldscheider and an interview article will be appearing on this blog in March]

Jörg Widmann (born 1973) - Air, for solo horn
Nikolaus von Krufft (1779-1818) - Sonata for Piano and Horn in E major
Robert Schumann (1810-1856) - Adagio and Allegro for Horn and Piano, Op.70
York Bowen (1884-1961) - Sonata for horna nd piano in E flat major, Op.101
Volker David Kirchner (born 1942) - Tre Poemi
Esa-Pekka Salonen (born 1958) - Concert Etude for solo horn
Ben Goldscheider (French Horn)
Daniel Hill (piano)
Recorded in Turner Sims Concert Hall, University of Southampton 22-24 December 2017
Willowhayne Records WHR045 1CD [74.34]
Available from Amazon.

Elsewhere on this blog:
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  • Gerstein plays Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue and Piano Concerto in F - CD review (****)
  • Satyagraha: Philip Glass's opera at ENO - Opera review (****)
  • Musical Arcadia: Handel at Vauxhall on Signum Classics - CD review (****)
  • Motherhood and memory: Helen Grime's Bright Travellers at the Wigmore Hall - Concert review (****)
  • Bernstein, Gubaidulina & more: violinist Vadim Gluzman on the importance of contemporary repertoire  - Interview
  • Music in a cold climate: the sounds of Hansa Europe - CD review (***)
  • Spices! Perfumes! Toxins! Approachably melodic percussion concerto - CD review - CD review (***)
  • A Triptych: Irrational Theatre at the King's Head - Opera review (***)
  • Topsy-turvy fun: Cal McCrystal directs G&S's Iolanthe - Opera review (*****)
  • Old-fashioned passion: Benjamin Godard's Dante - CD review
  • Korngold's Die tote Stadti at the Semperoper in Dresden - Opera review (****)
  • Powerful stuff: Verdi's La forza del Destino in Cardiff - Opera review (****)
  • Home

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