Horn Recital

Author: 
Christopher Headington

Horn Recital

  • Villanelle
  • Nocturno
  • Morceau de concert
  • Adagio and Allegro
  • Andante
  • Elégie
  • Cornucopia A sheaf of Miniatures
  • Sea Eagle
  • Alla caccia

This is the kind of disc which looks as if it might be of interest only to specialists or people in search of curiosities to add to their collection. However, such is the quality of the playing that it is much more than that. Michael Thompson is not just a fluent and skilful horn player but also an artist of considerable sensitivity and wide-ranging interpretative gifts, and in Philip Fowke he has a partner who is not only an able accompanist, but a fine artist in his own right. As for the music, it is all worth hearing, at least when played as well as this, and the programme and sequence have been well chosen. Listen to Dukas's celebrated Villanelle to hear how effectively a good composer can write for this instrument, as well as the range of tone (including a marvellous muted sound), colour and articulation that Thompson brings to it, splendidly supported as he is by the pianist.
Not all the music is so distinguished. To judge from his Nocturno (sic.), Franz Strauss (a professional horn player himself) was no genius and seemingly not too good at spelling either, since the Italian word is notturno! But his son Richard inherited from him a love for the horn and wrote finely for it, as we hear in the Andante played here, as well as his two concertos and orchestral music. Schumann's piece is recognizable as such, but musically unremarkable—I see that in her book on the composer (Dent: 1977), JOC groups it among his ''pleasing miniatures'', though at eight and a half minutes it is not that short.
The Poulenc Elegie was written in memory of Dennis Brain (for whom Alan Abbott wrote his tuneful and brilliant Alla caccia) and makes a stronger impression. So does Maxwell Davies's three-movement Sea Eagle for solo horn, a work short on melodic charm but possessing imaginative sweep—there are some angry squawks! Thomas Dunhill's name may be familiar to readers as a composer of well-crafted educational piano music: the six miniatures of his Cornucopia are delightfully written for both instruments, and I'm sure it would have pleased him to hear them played as charmingly as this. The recording of all this music was made in a Bristol church and sounds natural and faithful.'

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