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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Concertos for Horn and Orchestra: No. 1 in D, K386b (1791?) [8:13]; No. 2 in E flat, K417 (1783) [17:19]; No. 3 in E flat, K447 (1784-87) [15:17]; No. 4 in E flat, K495 (1786) [15:47]
Franz Josef HAYDN (1732-1709)
Concerto for Trumpet and Orchestra in E flat, Hob.VIIe:1 [13:03]
Claire Briggs (horn); Ian Balmain (trumpet)
Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra/Stephen Kovacevich.
rec. Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool, 11-12 January 1991. DDD
CLASSICS FOR PLEASURE 3822272 [67:51]



There are so many fine and established recordings of the Mozart horn concertos that any new one – or, like this, one that returns to our attention through reissue – needs something exceptional to recommend it. Given the availability of Brain and Karajan on Naxos (8.111070), even low price fails to enter into the equation.
 
Claire Briggs is a good player, but more than that?. Take the first concerto as an exemplar of her strengths and weaknesses. After a fairly light-on-its-feet orchestral exposition from Kovacevich and his players, the first thing to strike one is that Briggs' trills sound forced and unmusical. Further, her rather podgy sound makes her sound clumsy in the faster passages. The finale of this concerto is appropriately exuberant but the violins sound shrill up top. Given the excellence of the recording team, Andrew Keener and Mike Clements, this obviously comes from them rather than the recording itself.
 
The orchestra sounds more comfortable in the warmer E flat of Concertos 2-4. The first movement expositions, though, still tend towards the workaday. Briggs, for the slow movement of No. 2, takes a decidedly old-fashioned stance before adding the occasional flourish in the finale (à la Civil).
 
The Third and Fourth Concertos vie for popularity in the public eye. Briggs is musical enough here, getting appreciably more outdoorsy towards the end of the Third's first movement before retreating to MOR Mozart for the Romance. Again, she adds her own sauce to the finale in the form of additions, but they sound rehearsed and for the sake of it rather than off-the-cuff. The Fourth's first movement just sounds tired, with little or no tension to the lead-in to the cadenza. The cadenza itself is fine, if a touch over-long. The famous finale could be more full of joie-de-vivre.
 
In contrast, Ian Balmain brings real life to the Haydn Trumpet Concerto. Technically and musically, he puts Briggs in the shade although both share cadenzas that ramble! The sprightly finale is a good way to end a disc that brings more than its fair share of disappointments.
 
Colin Clarke
 


 


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