Mozart: Horn Concertos Nos. 1-4 (CD review)

Jacek Muzyk, horn; Agnieszka Duezmal, Amadeus Chamber Orchestra of Polish Radio. Naxos 8.570419.

The first thing I noticed when I picked up this disc was that it included only the four Mozart Horn Concertos and nothing else. This amounts to only a little over fifty minutes of music, while most competing labels include another concerto or two. I also thought, well, if you could buy the Naxos disc for around five bucks, it would still be worth the money, and then I remembered that "budget-priced" Naxos discs are now retailing at about nine or ten dollars, nearly the cost of most remastered mid-price material. So, the album is not the bargain it might have been a few years ago.

The performances are pleasant enough, if not extraordinary in any way. I mean, how can you knock a musician whose name is Muzyk, anyway? He plays a good horn, although he's also rather foursquare in his interpretations. Occasionally, I felt that the slow sections might have been a little too languid, but they are brief interludes, and things pick up in the outer movements.

The Naxos sound for Muzyk and the Amadeus Chamber Orchestra of Polish Radio is fairly close, yet with plenty of resonant bloom. Although the engineers capture the horn in the center position, it is a tad more recessed than usual, and the orchestral spread seems to favor the left side of the sound stage a tad too much.

Although this disc makes a safe bet, a relatively new digital recording, do note that one might obtain greater value with several of the mid-priced reissues of recordings that have stood the test of time, things like Dennis Brain with Herbert von Karajan (EMI, mono), Alan Civil with Rudolf Kempe (EMI), Lowell Greer with Nicholas McGegan (Harmonia Mundi), or Barry Tuckwell with Neville Marriner (EMI). It's an open field.

JJP

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John J. Puccio

John J. Puccio

About the Author

Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on The Big John and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor.

Today, I'm retired from teaching and use a pair of bi-amped VMPS RM40s loudspeakers for my listening. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (formerly DVDTown) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.

Mission Statement

It is the goal of Classical Candor to promote the enjoyment of classical music. Other forms of music come and go--minuets, waltzes, ragtime, blues, jazz, bebop, country-western, rock-'n'-roll, heavy metal, rap, and the rest--but classical music has been around for hundreds of years and will continue to be around for hundreds more. It's no accident that every major city in the world has one or more symphony orchestras.

When I was young, I heard it said that only intellectuals could appreciate classical music, that it required dedicated concentration to appreciate. Nonsense. I'm no intellectual, and I've always loved classical music. Anyone who's ever seen and enjoyed Disney's Fantasia or a Looney Tunes cartoon playing Rossini's William Tell Overture or Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 can attest to the power and joy of classical music, and that's just about everybody.

So, if Classical Candor can expand one's awareness of classical music and bring more joy to one's life, more power to it. It's done its job.

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa