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Friedrich KUHLAU (1786-1832)
Elverhøj (The Elf Hill) op. 100 (1828): Overture [10:49]; Act V ballet music [15:51]
Concertino for Two Horns op. 45 (1821) [22:53]
Piano Concerto in C major, Op. 7 (1810) [29:56]
Michael Ponti (piano); Ib Lanzky-Otto (horn), Frøydis Ree Wekre (horn)
Odense Symphony Orchestra/Othmar Maga
rec. Sept 1990, Carl Nielsen Hall, Odense.

Kuhlau was born in Lower Saxony, studied in Hamburg and moved to Copenhagen in 1810 where he took on Danish citizenship. There he developed his career over a period of 22 years until his death. His 'signature' work is the overture from the "play with music" Elverhøj. He was one of Beethoven's friends and carried his scores into Danish concert halls where Kuhlau's own music was also greeted. Amongst his works for the stage is a singspiel called Lulu which was championed on Danish Radio by Launy Grøndahl in 1956.

The Elverhøj overture is flighty and explosively genial in the manner of Beethoven but often with the lighter tread of his contemporaries Weber and Mendelssohn. The ballet music is given here in a single track. It effervesces with gentle life and there are a few flute solos as befits a composer well known for his works for the instrument. It ends with brassy regal confidence. The five-movement Concertino is delightfully done. If you are a fan of the Romantic era French horn then you must hear this. This music does not roar and gallop like the Schumann Konzertstück. No, this is more of an affectionately dialoguing serenade interleaved with chivalrous episodes in the form of two trotting Allegro alla polaccas. The seal is set by a final jocose Allegro assai. The Piano Concerto dates from Kuhlau's last years in Germany. It is in three movements and is written in the early Beethovenian style: tempests but with a preponderance of easy-going pearly melodic charm. It's all bread and butter to Ponti who is a specialist in romantic piano concertos. Seeing this pianist's name might worry some given his constricted recordings from Vox/Turnabout but there is none of that here.

This disc was first issued on Unicorn-Kanchana DKP(CD)9110 in 1991 but without the ballet music. It was reissued - with the ballet music added - in 2008 as Regis RRC 9108. Paul Arden-Taylor has re-mastered these recordings of music played with style and conviction.

The present CD runs to approaching eighty minutes - pretty good for a bargain price presenting far from commonly encountered music; enjoyable too. There's no stinting on the notes either. They're extensively done with detail and flare by Anthony Hodgson.

All in all this amounts to an extended and delightfully undemanding experience and there's nothing to match it so far as Kuhlau collections are concerned.

Rob Barnett



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