In his introductory note to this disc, Gregory Hustis,
principal horn of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra makes no bones that
the sole reason for the existence of this recording is to present an
hour or so of fine music for the horn and piano. He then takes a jab
at the gimmickry that is the classical recording industry these days.
Thanks Greg, you saved me from having to say it here!
Hustis and Harlos make a splendid team here, working
in excellent partnership to bring us a recital with variety and spark.
They flawlessly execute some terrific music, bringing us old and new,
virtuosic and lyrical, but most of all, enjoyable. I have heard Hustis
play live on a number of occasions, and this recital is typical of his
seamless legato playing and complete control over one of the orchestra’s
most unwieldy instruments. No studio tricks here, just impeccable technique
and an innate and natural musicianship.
The opening set of song transcriptions from the pen
of Gabriel Fauré truly sings. It is obvious to me that Hustis
did his homework, for he creates with his horn the mood of the poetry
from the original songs. The sonata by Nicolas Krufft, who was a nearly
exact contemporary of Beethoven, is a lovely little gem, and although
often overshadowed by Ludwig’s own sonata for horn, stands quite well
on its own and is worthy of repeated listening. One of the most interesting
pieces is the Scherzo Concertante of Vaclav Nelhybel. This is quite
the little showpiece and stands in contrast to the more romantic works
that dominate this recital. Francaix’s brief but feisty canon is a real
challenge for the ear. Set at just one beat apart, if you listen to
this carefully you will think you are out of phase. It is a delight.
Other standouts are the Vinter’s Hunter’s Moon and the Bozza En Forêt.
Crystal records, as I have stated before, are the masters
of the solo recital recording. Good clear notes and good clear sound,
although I sometimes found the piano to be too far in the background.
Steven Harlos is too fine a player to be relegated to the background,
and these works call for the kind of partnership that a pianist of Harlos’s
ability can provide.
This is a disc that will appeal to more than just horn
freaks. Anyone who appreciates fine musicianship and pleasant, appealing
repertoire will appreciate this outing. Highly recommended.