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.
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.
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.
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?
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
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
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.