Mozart - Horn Concertos | Signum SIGCD345

Mozart - Horn Concertos


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Label: Signum

Cat No: SIGCD345

Format: CD

Number of Discs: 1

Genre: Orchestral

Release Date: 25th November 2013



Under the direction of Margaret Faultless, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment shine on these new recordings of Mozart's Horn Concertos, featuring some astounding performances by Roger Montgomery on the natural horn.

As well as lesser-known gems of Mozart's horn repertoire, at the centre of the collection comes the lyrical fourth Horn Concerto (K.495), featuring thrilling fanfares and brilliant dialogue between the solo instrument and orchestra.

Europadisc Review

Mozart wrote four – possibly five – horn concertos for the virtuoso Joseph Leitgeb, and they form by far the largest part of his output for horn and orchestra. While not perhaps in the same class as his sublime piano concertos, they are still marvellous works, all written in the last decade of his life, and have proved perennial favourites with horn players and audiences alike.

In this splendid new recording from Roger Montgomery and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment they are ordered chronologically (the traditional numbering being misleading): 2, 4, 3 and 1. In between concertos 2 and 4 comes the single-movement fragment of the fifth work, K494a, and the disc is rounded off with Mozart’s two remaining works for these forces: a single movement from a concerto in E flat, K370b, and the Rondeau in E flat, K371, both dating from March 1781.

Leitgeb was one of the pre-eminent horn players of his time, and concertos were written for him by Dittersdorf, Leopold Hofmann, and the Haydn brothers. In 1763 he joined the Salzburg court orchestra, where he befriended the Mozart family. Twenty-four years the senior of Wolfgang Amadeus, he was an avuncular but less roundly educated figure, prompting some affectionate teasing from the young composer. By the time of Mozart’s earliest work for Leitgeb, the Concerto No.2 in E flat, K417, both men had relocated to Vienna, and the music itself seems to reflect a warm, good-humoured friendship.

These performances by Roger Montgomery and his colleagues at the OAE strike the perfect balance between lively wit and expressive warmth. Tempi are alert but never rushed, while the solo playing in the fast movements is agile but never flashy, in the slower music genial and mellow. Ornaments are tasteful, and the cadenzas (Montgomery’s own) are well-elaborated. The hunting-style finales go with all the swing one could wish for. Montgomery’s mastery of the natural horn, with its frequent recourse to hand-stopping to ‘bend’ non-harmonic notes, is second to none, and he makes the most persuasive case for hearing these works on the type of instrument for which they were written.

Additionally, Montgomery himself contributes to the orchestration of the fragmentary K494a. The Rondo finale of the late D major Concerto (No.1) is given twice, first in Süssmayr’s 1792 completion and then in a version by Stephen Roberts from 1994, making for a fascinating comparison. Roberts is also responsible for the reconstruction of K370b and the completion of K371, adding considerably to the disc’s attractions, as well as for the unusually informative and well-researched notes.

Montgomery is supported by finely-detailed and stylish accompaniments from the OAE under the direction of leader Margaret Faultless. The recording, made in London’s All Saints' Church, East Finchley in October 2012, is on the dry side, but this only adds to the intimate charm of the music, and the solo balance is forward without being overbearing. For listeners wanting these works in historically-informed and unfailingly musical performances, this is now a clear first choice. Bravissimi!

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