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Peter Damm (French horn)
rec. 1961-87
BERLIN CLASSICS 0300930BC [6 CDs: ca 6 hours]

Peter Damm was something of a staple of the East German Eterna label. Appointed French horn principal of the Leipzig Gewandhaus in 1959 at the young age of twenty-two, he assumed the same role with the Staatskapelle Dresden a decade later. He made numerous recordings as an orchestral and chamber player but it was those as a soloist that promoted him most fully as the ideal representative of the Dresden school. To celebrate his 80th birthday in 2017, Berlin Classics has selected from his extensive catalogue to produce a 6-CD box culled from LPs made between 1961 and 1987.

Rightly he is heard first as a member of the burnished quartet of horns from the Gewandhaus under the directorship of Konwitschny in Schumann’s Konzertstück, Op.86. His soloistic prowess is exemplified by the two Strauss concertos, where he’s accompanied by the Staatskapelle Dresden and Heinz Rögner. Note that his recordings with Kempe are the ones that have garnered the most international esteem but their relative ubiquity makes these 1970 Dresden readings the more useful to find in the context of these Eterna recordings. Udo Zimmermann’s Divertissements, after Rameau fuse baroque and contemporary elements nicely – a witty and sometimes beautiful piece.

The second disc balances two classic repertoire pieces with two relatively unknown works. Beethoven’s Horn Sonata is played with control and elegance, accompanied by Amadeus Webersinke, the man with the musical name. His instrument has a very fortepiano-like treble. There are hints of Hindemith in Siegfried Köhler’s Sonata, a work that sets busyness against nonchalance. Willi Albrecht Reuter’s Canto appassionato is almost as compact, and exudes a crisp, taut profile. The disc ends with Mozart’s Horn Quintet, which may remind one of Damm’s very well-received Mozart recordings with Neville Marriner.

The third disc introduces another of Damm’s colleagues, organist Hansjürgen Scholze and together they explore a good stylistic mix. There’s the baroque vitality of Krebs and Finger – whose Sonata in G is played with great warmth and athleticism - and some choice examples of Homilius. Giovanni Viviani’s Sonata calls for Damm to wield the Diskanthorn - a descant horn in other words, which he does with aplomb. Poulenc’s Elegie in memory of Dennis Brain draws on Damm’s power of visceral projection, though it’s unusual to hear it in the context of organ accompaniment; it was written for the piano. Bernhard Kroll (1920-2013) contributes an attractive set of five miniatures, variously colourful, quietly melancholy and even prismic.

The fourth disc is largely given over to French repertoire in which Damm’s accompanist is pianist Peter Rösel. Highlights here include the sparkling Françaix Divertimento, the smooth legato of the Saint-Saëns Romance, the deft hunting horn and echo effects of the virtuosic Büsser La Chasse de Saint Hubert, and the soliloquies of Bozza’s Sur les Cimes. As he plays them so well it’s a shame Damm only recorded two of Gounod’s Six Mélodies.

The distinguished figure of violinist Eduard Melkus appears in disc five (where Damm again plays Diskanthorn) though in his role as conductor of the Capella Sagittariana. He elicits bold and confident playing for Damm in Quantz’s Concerto whilst in Zelenka’s delightful Caprice Damm’s distinguished colleagues are also featured in solo roles. The lithe performances of Telemann and Heinichen impress but even they are topped by the self-confidence oozing from Fasch’s bold concerto. When two horn soloists are called for, Dieter Pansa joins Damm.

Renewed evidence of Damm’s commitment to what was then contemporary music comes in the final disc. Siegfried Kurz’s Concerto, with the composer directing, is a very approachable, non-combative affair though it has the occasional outburst. There’s a great deal of colour, especially percussive colour, in the resonant and attractive Concerto by Johann Cilenšek – multi-sectional, sonically alive, and well worth repeated listens. In both these concertos Herbert Kegel directs. Finally, we end with Fritz Geissler’s effective two-movement Sonata.

A number of the recordings in this box have been reissued before. Brilliant Classics licensed all of disc 5, for instance, and other things have appeared as well. There’s no indication on the box or in the booklet that any of these pieces are making their first appearance on CD. That said, recording details are somewhat vague but there is an enjoyable interview with the great horn player in the booklet.

This box certainly fulfills its objective well, with fine restorations and a canny selection of recordings from Damm’s large catalogue of discs. A little more care over matters discographical would have enhanced things still further.

Jonathan Woolf

Robert Schumann: Konzertstück for four horns
Horn Quartet of the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig/Franz Konwitschny
Richard Strauss: Horn Concertos 1 & 2
Staatskapelle Dresden/Heinz Rögner
Udo Zimmermann:Nouveaux Divertissements
Staatskapelle Dresden/Udo Zimmermann
Ludwig van Beethoven: Adagio and Allegro for Horn and piano
Siegfried Köhler: Horn sonata op. 32
Willi Albrecht Reuter: Canto appassionato for Horn and piano
Amadeus Webersinke (piano)
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Horn quintet KV 407
Rudolf Ulbrich and Joachim Zindler (violins): Joachim Ulbricht (viola): Clemens Dillner (cello)
CD3 Music for Horn und Organ from the Kathedrale Dresden
Johann Ludwig Krebs: Wachet auf. Ruft uns die Stimme; Was mein Gott will, das gescheh allzeit
Gottfried Finger: Sonata in G
Gottfried August Homilius: Komm, heiliger Gesit, Herre Gott; O heil’ger Geist, kehr bei uns ein Giovanni Buonaventura Viviani: Sonata for Descant horn and organ
Francis Poulenc: Elegie in memoriam Dennis Brain
Bernhard Krol; Missa muta
Alain Weber: Improvisation
Hansjürgen Scholze (organ)
CD4 French Music for horn and piano
Jean Francaix: Divertimento
Camille Saint-Saëns: Romances opp. 36 and 67
Henri Büsser: La Chasse de Saint Hubert
Carles Gounod: 2 Melodies
Eugène Bozza: Sur les Cimes
Paul Dukas: Villanelle
Jean-Michel Damase: Pavane variee
Marcel Poot: Legende
Gioachino Rossini: Prelude, Theme and Variations
Peter Rösel (piano)
Johann Joachim Quantz: Concerto in E for horn, oboe, strings and bass continuo
Jan Dismas Zelenka: Caprice for two horns, two oboes, bassoon, strings and bass continuo Johann David Heinichen: Concerto in F for two horns, two flutes, two violins and bass continuo
Georg Philipp Telemann: Concerto for two horns, two oboes, strings and bass continuo
Johann Friedrich Fasch: Concerto in D for two horns, two oboes, strings and bass continuo
Dieter Pansa (descant horn)/Capella Sagittariana/Eduard Melkus
Siegfried Kurz: Horn concerto
Staatskapelle Dresden/Siegfried Kurz
Johann Cilenšek: Horn Concerto in F
Dresden Philharmonic Orchestra/Herbert Kegel
Fritz Geissler: Horn sonata
Amadeus Webersinke (piano)



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