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Dennis Brain – A Tribute
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Horn Concerto No. 1 in D, K. 412 (1791?) [8:22] ¹
Horn Concerto No. 2 in E-flat, K. 417 (1783) [13:48] ¹
Horn Concerto No. 3 in E-flat, K. 447 (1786-7) [15:45] ¹
Horn Concerto No. 3 in E-flat, K. 447 (1786-7) [14:47] ²
Horn Concerto No. 4 in E-flat, K. 495 (1786) [16:21] ¹
Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949)
Horn Concerto No.2 in E flat major (1942) [16:27] ~
Paul HINDEMITH (1895-1963)
Sonata for Four Horns (1952) [14:18]
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Sonata in E Major Op 109 [14:32] ³
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Adagio and Allegro for horn Op.70 (1849) [8:21] *
Paul DUKAS (1895-1965)
La Villanelle [5:56] #
Marin MARAIS (1656-1728)
La Basque [1:02] #
Dennis Brain (horn)
Philharmonia Orchestra/Herbert von Karajan ¹
Philharmonia Orchestra/ Wolfgang Sawallisch ~
SWF Orchestra/Hans Rosbaud ²
Dennis Brain Ensemble
Denis Matthews (piano) ³
Gerald Moore (piano) *
Wilfred Parry (piano) #
rec. London, 1944 (Beethoven) and 1953 (Mozart Concertos), Edinburgh, 1957 (Dukas, Marais), London, 1956 (Hindemith, Strauss), Stuttgart, 1953 (Mozart Concerto No.3)
ANDROMEDA ANDRCD 5065 [69:10 + 59:49]

This will all be very familiar to the Brain collector. This two-disc set mixes commercial recordings with live ones. Everything here has been issued before, often multiply so. The Mozart Concertos with Karajan are canonic Brain repertoire though interest is generated by the addition of a live performance of No. 3 in E-flat, K. 447 with Hans Rosbaud. The Strauss is the less familiar No.2, the Hindemith is not the sonata for horn and piano or the concerto, so often the subjects of reissue, but the Sonata for Four Horns. The earliest item is the Beethoven sonata, a famous wartime traversal with Denis Matthews.

EMI’s Mozart concertos have been pretty much permanent fixtures of the discography. They’re currently available in the GROC series coupled with the Quintet for piano and wind. What is intriguing about this collation of them is the inclusion of the live Rosbaud performance of the Third, K. 447. The two seem to have formed a powerfully sympathetic partnership and despite the faded sonics – more cloudy and boxy than the contemporaneous commercial recording with Karajan – we can still hear that Rosbaud imbues the music with greater flair and incision than Karajan. Accelerandi and dynamics register with great immediacy. Demerits include some tape tremor and deterioration Their other non-commercial collaboration, of the Second Concerto, has been available and if you can find it, it’s highly recommended. 

The second disc is, to be blunt, a dog’s dinner of a compilation. The Strauss Concerto (commercial) joins the Hindemith (live) which is followed by the Beethoven sonata (commercial, 78) and is itself followed by the well-known 1952 disc of the Schumann Adagio and Allegro with Gerald Moore. Two encore pieces, both live, round off a very uneven selection in terms of compatibility though not quality. None of this is new or rare. And in addition the claim of “London 1954” for the Marais and Dukas should be “Edinburgh, August 1957”, live performances made only days before Brain’s death. 

There are plenty of Brain items still locked in the vaults or having received limited release. As for the Dukas and the Schumann there are Britten accompanied versions from 1956 as well as ones by Klaus Billing for RIAS three years earlier. Conrad Hansen’s broadcast with Brain of the Beethoven sonata exists – RIAS, 1950. There’s a performance of the Strauss with the BBC Welsh and Rae Jenkins from 1951. There is no shortage of Mozart concertos. I see that this month BBC Legends is bringing out a Malcolm Sargent accompanied performance of the E-flat, K. 447 but there are others certainly – van Kampen (RIAS 1953) and Schmidt-Isserstedt with the NDR the following year. 

Unfortunately Andromeda has omitted details of Brain’s collaborators in the Strauss Concerto - Sawallisch and the Philharmonia. It’s rather indicative of an erratic selection of items you will have seen elsewhere. No notes as usual from this source. The transfers are serviceable though the first movement of the Rosbaud-Mozart seems to have had inherent pitching problems and tape degradation.

Brain collectors will have all this. Newcomers may be attracted by the Mozart but I would advise them to take a more expensive but systematic approach to Brain’s discography initially via the BBC and EMI.

Jonathan Woolf






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