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Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

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Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949)
Horn Concerto No. 1 in E flat major, Op. 11 (1883) [15:31]
Horn Concerto No. 2 in E flat major (1942) [19:12]
Franz STRAUSS (1822-1905)
Horn Concerto in C minor, Op. 8 (1865) [13:12]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Horn Concerto No. 3 in E flat major, K417 (1786) [13:34]
Zdenek Tylsar (horn)
Prague Symphony Orchestra/Jiri Bélohlavek (Richard Strauss)
Czech Philharmonic Orchestra/Vaclav Neumann (Franz Strauss, Mozart)
rec. 22-26 September 1979, Smetana Hall Prague (Richard Strauss), 15 November 1985 (Franz Strauss), 22 February 1976 (Mozart), Rudolfinum, Prague. ADD
SUPRAPHON SU 3892-2 [61:58]

 

The two horn concertos of Richard Strauss were composed sixty years apart, yet both are masterworks worthy of their composerís genius. Of all instruments Strauss was entitled to be aware of the hornís potential in a solo capacity, since his father Franz was a leading virtuoso who had himself written a brilliant concerto the year after Richard was born.

Franz Strauss composed the virtuoso concerto his reputation would suggest, and though the musical style looks back to Mendelssohn rather than anticipating later masters, its three movements still contain an abundance of opportunities for the soloist and the orchestra, and ample entertainment for the listener. This description serves equally well for the performers on this CD, since Zdenek Tylsar establishes his credentials as a sensitive master of the instrument, and he is well supported by the Czech Philharmonic and Vacav Neumann.

Recorded in 1979 with good clear sound, these performances of the two Richard Strauss concertos can live with the best. David Pyatt and the Britten Sinfonia (Classics for Pleasure) enjoy slightly more sophisticated sound, but the Supraphon performance is perfectly satisfactory. In the first movement of the Concerto No. 1 the stringsí accompaniment is somewhat prosaic and chugging, but held in a sensitive balance with the solo line. Tylsarís tone in the second movement is the highlight of the performance; absolutely secure and always sensitive to nuances of dynamic.

The Concerto No. 2 may have been written sixty years later, but it sounds just as lively and fresh as its predecessor. The writing is more sensitive still, of course, the result of all Straussís experience. The music dates from 1942 and, particularly in the orchestral accompaniment, shows altogether richer and more adventurous techniques than its predecessor, as the Supraphon recording confirms. Again we find Strauss's complete understanding of the horn's true character, with Tylsar again on sparkling form. Several natural characteristics exploited: the ceremonial, fanfare-like qualities; the soft cantabile and silky legato which are among the horn's special glories. In the swift moving rondo finale, the music increasingly depends upon the mastery and sheer agility of the soloist in order to project its nature. Tylsar plays brilliantly, and so too does the Prague Symphony Orchestra.

Although Mozart enjoyed a close relationship with Prague, he wrote his horn concertos for his Viennese friend Anton Leitgeb. Zdenek Tylsar plays the second concerto with appropriate panache, and he is well supported by the recording engineers and the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra. The generous acoustic of the Rudolfinum helps create a warmly supportive environment in the central slow movement, but it is the hunting horn rondo finale that makes the most lasting impression. Since this performance is offered in mixed company with the concertos by the Strausses, there is no need to play Tylsar off against the likes of Dennis Brain and Barry Tuckwell, to name but two masters of the horn. Instead this performance of the Mozart Concerto No. 3 can be enjoyed in its own right, and a splendid player given the accolade he deserves.

Terry Barfoot



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