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Leopold MOZART (1719-1787)
Complete Horn Concertos
Concerto for Two Horns in E flata (1752) [
13:37]; Sinfonia pastorella in Gb [9:21]; Sinfonia da camera in Da [13:44]; Sinfonia da caccia in Gc [12:09]
Herman Jeurissen (achorn/bcorno pastorizio), acMichael Höltzel, cVincent Lévesque, cLenno de Ruyter (horns)
Concerto Rotterdam/Heinz Friesen
rec. 1982, Abtei-Kirche, Den Haag. DDD
Experience Classicsonline

The music of Leopold Mozart remains completely overshadowed by that of his infinitely more famous son. Horn players know of him through at least some of these works. The more general collector probably knows of the ‘Toy’ Symphony.

Leopold’s music is gentle and beautifully constructed. All of the works on this disc were composed before the birth of his genius son. The descriptive elements of his music are typical of the place of composition at this time: South Germany.

The Concerto for Two Horns is a magnificent example of Leopold’s craft. It needs two soloists who can manage the difficulties with complete nonchalance. It finds these players in Herman Jeurissen and Michael Höltzel. Jeurissen’s pure high register, beautifully caught in a short, cadenza-like flourish towards the end, is a wonder to experience. The sound of both players is identifiably German, slightly heavier than their English counterparts and entirely apt for this music. Jeurissen and Höltzel’s eloquence in the beautiful Andante is magnificent, and the players find absolutely the perfect tempo. The same could be said of the tempo of the finale – the music is jaunty but the slightly slower than expected speed for the indication of Allegro means that its elegance can be fully honoured, too.

The Sinfonia pastorella sports a first movement that makes up for what it lacks in inspiration by sheer fun. I believe this was the piece in which Dennis Brain played on hosepipe in the Hoffnung concerts. There is no generally agreed date for this piece. The instrument, a “Shepherd’s Horn”, is 1.6 metres long, made of wood and is only capable for playing four pitched. Talk about limiting your musical material. The gentle Andante is, perhaps unsurprisingly, orchestral only. The whole is delightful in the extreme. Not much to say about Jeurissen’s contributions except that I am sure he had fun. I am all admiration for the lip trill that concludes the first movement. For some reason he ends the last movement on a sustained note while the orchestral violins trill. Surely it would have worked just as well?

The Sinfonia da camera is scored for horn, violin, two violas and basso continuo. The Menuett, the second movement (of four) is a model of attractive civility. The Andante deliberately avoids any hint of profundity, and for that reason is all the more approachable. The use of organ as continuo works well.

The Sinfonia da caccia is notorious for its inclusion of special effects including, apparently, a gun and a pack of hunters and hounds to make hunting sounds for a mere six bars. The sound effects have been omitted, but the booklet notes advise us that the listener “may improvise his own hunting sound effects while playing the record”. This being the East End of London, it struck me that it wouldn’t take me too long to find a gun, but I thought that might be taking research too far. In the event, despite the booklet’s protestations, there is something which is obviously designed to sound very much like a gun there anyway - it sounds like a cross between a gun and a whip. The four hornists evidently enjoy their hunting figures to the full, and a grand time is had by all – including the listener.

The recording date is given as 1982 and the (P) date as 1984; I can only assume this is just a straight reissue of Dabringhaus L3085. This recording is pure delight and is very definitely not just horn-player territory.

Colin Clarke




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