This is a tasty, original and generous collection of works
for horn and orchestra. All credit to the Australian Government
for having the percipience to fund it.
It's very much a Franco-Australian
affair with the Damase Rhapsodie commissioned by Barry
Humphries and the last piece being the Phantasy by
Marshall-Hall. The latter was born in London but was resident
in Melbourne from 1891 until his death. The horn player, orchestras
and conductor are Australian. Melba is an Australian label
of fragrant distinction and the musicians are all Australian
by birth or firm adoptive choice.
The Damase Concerto
was premiered at an international symposium of horn-players
in Bordeaux – the composer’s birthplace - in 1995. Jacks'
tone here and throughout is steady, bold and true centre.
This is so even when he plays the more languid role of singer-enchanter
as in the third movement. The final allegro vivace has
a gritty pulse over what is a constant presence: a strong
sense of Poulencian melody and poetry. Even so the progress
of this delectable music is hardly ever becalmed. Don't miss
the many soloistic touches from the orchestra. There’s a dialogue
with the first horn and singing tendrils of the sweetest melody
from the Leader. It's a lovely work and you need to add it
to your heritage tracks.
We have heard the three
movement Koechlin Poème before. This work majors on
the pensive-pastoral rather than the active. However the finale
provides some bushy-tailed dynamic contrast. Even so this
readily melts into the warmth of summery woodland glades perhaps
in the manner of Bax's Spring Fire.
The single movement
Damase Rhapsodie was written for Tuckwell who premiered
the work in 1986 in London. Here Tuckwell defers to the young
Ben Jacks and takes to the podium in full and generous empathy
with his soloist. This sea-inspired work is full of intriguing
twists and turns. There is nothing here of dissonance - just
tonal succulence and pleasing rhythmic invention. It passes
through many gradations of mood. A boulevardier insouciance
sometimes comes to the fore. I am not sure I would have detected
anything oceanic if I hadn’t been told. That said, there is
a wave-lapping cradling to the final peace-suffused pages.
Very satisfying. We need to hear much more orchestral Damase
The Dukas Villanelle
is as arranged by Paul Terracini who has a light hand
in these matters. Dukas's famously unforgiving self-critical
judgement resulted in his own orchestral arrangement being
destroyed. It is good that Terracini has given this piece
new orchestral wings with an eye to the bubbling Rimskian
flavours of the original.
The Saint-Saëns Morceau
is not exactly unknown though hardly common either. It
is at times rather like a Mozartean take on Brahms. A
delightful light piece.
Marshall Hall's Phantasy
was written when the composer had only ten more years
to live. It's a late-classical romantic ‘conzertstück’ with
a Tchaikovskian swoon mixed in with Weberian liveliness.
Quite what the comely
female on the cover has to do with all this I do not know
even if she is flanked by a coiffed poodle and a French horn.
Anyway let's not worry about that.
The closest thing to
hot cakes in years. Snap it up now.