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Louis François DAUPRAT (1781-1868)
Grand Sextet in C for six horns [40:01]
Die Detmolder Hornisten (Michael Höltzel, Koichi Noda, Vincent Levesque, Laura Hall, Armin Suppan, Jürgen Haspelmann (French horns))
rec. Martin-Luther-Kirche, Detmold, Germany, 1982. DDD
MUSIKPRODUKTION DABRINGHAUS UND GRIMM MDG3240087-2 [40:01]

Experience Classicsonline


This is a re-issue of a disc originally released in the early 1980s, and then again in 1998. There seems to be no special reason for a second re-issue in 2011, with the very same label number and cover as 1998 - no obvious anniversaries, for example. The booklet is unenlightening - it appears to be identical to the second release, right down to the catalogue number and CD cover artwork, and MDG's website sheds no light at all on the matter.
 
Perhaps then it has been re-issued simply because the music and performances are plain irresistible? Well, those are indeed the facts of the matter - Louis Dauprat and the Detmold Hornists may not be household names, but the Sextet is an outstanding, possibly unique work, and this ensemble, named after their base in Germany, have superb intonation and expressiveness.
 
Neither the date of composition nor of publication of the Sextet are known, but some time between 1810 and 1827 seems likely for both. The work is fairly conservative, with little of the innovation characteristic of Antonín Rejcha's wind quintets, which were composed around this time, and indeed written in part for Dauprat, who studied with Rejcha from 1811 to 1814. The work begins at a slow tempo, Lento, and generally stays that way, never faster than Allegro moderato. Dauprat was anything but a showman, and the Sextet is absolutely a model of Classical balance, restraint and elegance, overflowing with melody and warming like a late-summer evening in Provence. Six French horns may not sound much like an ideal combination for wind ensemble, but Dauprat presents here a convincing counter-argument.
 
As a French horn soloist and teacher as well as a composer, Dauprat wrote almost exclusively for his instrument - his relatively small body of works includes four horn concertos and a concertino, six quartets for four horns, four trios for three horns and twenty-six duos for two horns, as well as similar works for combinations involving a single horn. His Méthode de Cor Alto et Cor Basse is still a highly influential handbook for students and teachers.
 
The recording is very good, especially considering that this is 'DDD' as it was in 1982. A couple of years ago Richard Burdick performed all six parts in a recording for I Ching Music, reviewed here. It does sound as if a millisecond or two might have been chopped off track beginnings - there is no hint of any normal intake of breath here as there is elsewhere.
 
The CD booklet itself is no great shakes, with just a few cursory paragraphs of notes on Dauprat and even less on the Sextet and performers. Surely a re-release warrants at least some updated material? After all, leader Michael Höltzel's Detmold days are long gone, and internet searches reveal that the Detmolder Hornisten appear to be kaputt as an ensemble.
 
Any potential purchaser will be bound to wonder why they are being asked to pay this much (whatever the price) for a disc that is half empty; MDG's excuse that "that was how we did it in those days" is hardly likely to elicit many reactions of ‘oh-well-in-that-case’.
 
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