Mozart: Horn Concertos (CD review)

Also, Rondos and fragments. Barry Tuckwell, horn; English Chamber Orchestra. Decca B000573702.

Horn virtuosos must have a hard time finding enough concertos written specifically for their instrument to fill up a very large stock of recordings, so it's understandable that Australian horn virtuoso Barry Tuckwell, one of the finest horn players in the world, would record Mozart's popular Horn Concertos over and over. By my count, Tuckwell has recorded them at least four times, this one, performed with the English Chamber Orchestra in 1983, among the very best he's done.

It was the first of several recordings of the works he would do digitally, and he leads the orchestra as well as plays the instrument. The performance finds him as his most easygoing, amiable best, the horn sounding like melted butter, and the sprightly hunting melodies coming out as pleasingly as one could want. They perhaps lack the ultimate elegance and distinction that marked Dennis Brain's famous mono set with Karajan (EMI), but the Tuckwell set has charms all his own, not the least of which is the generally excellent support of the ECO, the sound Decca provide, and the accompanying Rondos and fragments.

I don't usually like to tell people what to buy, it's not my business, but I should think that anyone interested in classical music would own at least three accounts of the four Horn Concertos: a recording on period instruments, one on modern instruments, and the one with Dennis Brain. For period instruments, my own favorite is the release from horn player Lowell Greer, conductor Nicholas McGegan, and the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra on Harmonia Mundi; for modern instruments, my favorites are the Tuckwell reviewed here, plus Alan Civil with either Rudolf Kempe or Otto Klemperer on EMI and Eric Ruske and Charles Mackerras on Telarc. And to make good things ever better, they all sound full and rich, the Telarc perhaps the smoothest.

In any case, it's nice of Decca to reissue Tuckwell and the ECO at mid price; it makes a tempting buy.

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.

Contact Information

Readers with polite, courteous, helpful letters may send them to pucciojj@gmail.com.

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa