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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Horn Concertos: B flat, K417; E flat, K495; E flat, K447; D, K 412/514 (with completions by Süssmayr and Roberts); E, K494a (fragment, partly orch. Montgomery); E flat, K370b/K371 (reconstructed Roberts).
Roger Montgomery (natural horn)
Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment/Margaret Faultless (violin)
rec. live, Queen Elizabeth Hall, London, 25 October 2012

This is, to put it mildly, a crowded field, at least in the main four concertos. Dennis Brain with Karajan holds the crown and probably will do for all of recorded time. That's not to say that there isn't room for more. Old schoolers may prefer the more raucous Alan Civil (ASMF/Marriner - he also recorded them with Klemperer) or Barry Tuckwell, in various versions including Alto and Eloquence. The valveless list begins in 1974 with the mighty Hermann Baumann (Concentus Musicus Wien/Harnoncourt on Teldec).
Roger Montgomery, Principal Horn of the Orchestra of Enlightenment, loses nothing in technique to anyone, valved or otherwise. These are live performances, and the only way one can tell is in the spontaneity they exude. Accuracy is impeccable. I can only assume some patching was done after the event, but this is no bad thing.
Style is the keyword here. The orchestra plays impeccably - the orchestral exposition to the First Concerto furnished a sterling example. Montgomery's responses and declarations are eloquence personified. The sense of ease he brings to his delivery is the equivalent to that which Brain brought to the valve horn. Lip trills are astonishingly even and deft. The disc starts with the Second Concerto, which furnishes excellent examples. The attack to notes is perfectly judged.
Throughout, the brisk rondos appear as if freshly written. Stephen Roberts provides excellent booklet notes as well as an alternative completion to the finale of the First concerto (the one most often heard is by Süssmayr) and reconstructions of K370b and K371. This is clearly work of love as well as labour, as everything is impeccably, tastefully done.
The inclusion of the Fragment K494a is to be welcomed. The second movement of the final concerto we hear (E flat K370b/K371) is far more famous than the first and is deliciously delivered, full of suave touches and with a wonderful oboe counterpoint at one point.
Actually, the list of delights to be gleaned from this disc is endless. Most people will have one or more accounts of the Mozart horn concertos in their collections already, I would guess; this would make a perfect supplement, especially if the version already owned is performed on a modern instrument.
Colin Clarke