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Carl Maria Von WEBER

Disc 1 - Overtures to
Der Freischütz
The Ruler of the Spirits
Invitation to the Dance (orch. Berlioz)
Abu Hassan
Peter Schmoll

Disc 2 -
Symphony no.1 in C
Horn Concertino in E
Symphony no.2 in C

The Hanover Band/Goodman, Anthony Halstead, horn.
Disc 1 recorded at All Saints' Church Tooting, 22-23 Feb. 1988
Disc 2 recorded at the Great Hall Birmingham University, 6 - 7 Dec. 1989
NIMBUS NI 7062/3 [55:33]
Crotchet   £11.74  Amazon UK   £11.99 Amazon US

The choice of extremely resonant acoustics for these recordings has its pros and cons. There is no missing the 'live' quality of the sound from the very beginning of the Euryanthe Overture. The great wind chords come over impressively, with bass trombone clearly audible supporting the lot. But the reverse side of the coin is also revealed; string detail is often completely lost under the weight of tone from the wind. This balance problem persists right through both discs, which is a great pity, as there is some lovely playing from all sections of this excellent ensemble, and Goodman's readings have an instinctive feel for the music.

The first three overtures and 'Invitation to the Dance' on Disc 1 are all very well known pieces. The remaining overtures are not so familiar, and Abu Hassan is an amusing piece of exoticism. Throughout all performances, the sound of the natural unvalved brass is thrilling, particularly that of the horns.

Which brings us to the main novelty on these discs, the 1815 Horn Concertino, stunningly played here on the natural hand horn by Anthony Halstead. It is full of quirky techniques - nasal stopped notes, and even a four-note chord produced by playing one note and humming another. Two other 'phantom' notes appear as if by magic as resultants. That's the theory, anyway, and, even if the result is more suggestive of dietary problems than music, Halstead makes as good a shot at producing the effect as anyone I've heard.

The two symphonies of 1806 and 1807 are pretty routine pieces - no Beethovenian profundity here, just good-humoured and conventional music, with extended solos for the various wind instruments. I can't imagine, though, that Weber would have been satisfied with the mumbling and indistinct sound of Goodman's bassoons.

Ultimately, the bathroom acoustics selected for this recording work strongly against it. Too much important detail in strings and woodwind is lost under brass chords and booming timpani.

Gwyn Parry-Jones

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