This is an important
disc, marrying a first recording (the
Violin Concerto) with a live performance
by the greatest of all horn players,
Dennis Brain. With a total playing time
of only 50 minutes, the disc might,
at first sight, be seen to deliver short
shrift, but both pieces are works of
some substance (best appreciated with
a gap between listenings).
Schoeck was a pupil
of Max Reger in Leipzig, and it is true
that an element of seriousness has filtered
through. But there are also moments
of airy lightness that are pure delight.
The Horn Concerto is
one of Schoeck’s more famous pieces.
In the case of the present recording
this is due in no small measure to the
artistry of Dennis Brain. The robust
opening introduces the soloist. One
note and it could only be Brain – confidence
personified, true tone and pitch, superb
staccato (not over-tongued, just defined)
and, most of all, infinitely sensitive.
It is the hushed moments that linger
in the memory.
The second movement
(Grave, non troppo lento) is
very lush, contrasting with the initial
Allegretto. Brain’s liquid legato
is a joy (and he is one of the few players
who can be really expressive while hand-stopping
– around 2’20). Dennis Brain was also
famous for his sense of fun, and it
is precisely that that comes across
in the spirited (and very difficult!)
finale. Sacher conducts with care and
The Violin Concerto
predates the Horn Concerto by forty
years. Stefi Geyer (1888-1956, the soloist
on this recording) was beloved by Schoeck,
and something of this tender passion
comes across in the music. Walter Legge
produced this recording, and all things
conspire to an intense experience, although
the transfer sets things fairly back
– more immediacy would be welcome. The
music is here more obviously heart-on-sleeve
than was the case in the Horn Concerto,
a Romantic outpouring that suits Geyer’s
lovely, sweet tone perfectly. Much of
this movement is extremely restful,
as is the hushed and delicate ‘Grave,
non troppo lento’ (although there
is animation around the 7’30 mark).
The finale is open, free and as happy
as Schoeck is liable to get.
then. Do give it a try, there is much
to hold the attention here.
see also review
by Jonathan Woolf
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