Mozart: The Four Horn Concerti (CD review)

Albert Linder, horn; Hans Swarowsky, Vienna State Opera Orchestra. Vanguard/Amadeus AMD 7012.

Can we really have too many recordings of Mozart's four horn concerti? Probably not, at least not when musicians play them so well as they do here. I must admit I fell in love with these sweet, leisurely renditions from Albert Linder the first time I heard them, which was some years after he recorded them in 1961 with the Vienna State Opera Orchestra. Of course, nothing has yet to top Dennis Brain's performances from a little more than a half dozen years earlier, but Brain's recording is in monaural, and I can understand people today wanting only stereo. This one seems to me as good as any.

The agenda begins with No. 3, the most poetically lyrical of the lot. It is also the most profound and, in its way, perhaps the most mature. Certainly, it is the most complex. I suppose the album producer chose it to lead off the program because it demonstrates Linder's relaxed, conservative style better than the others. Not that Linder's pace sounds slow; it just sounds right. Even the closing Allegro, normally a robust hunting motif, sounds easygoing in Linder's hands. No. 4 follows, also in the restful style of an earlier age. These interpretations are in marked contrast to many more modern ones that go at the music with wildly unrestrained tempos.

Albert Linder
The program continues in reverse order with No. 2 second to last and No. 1 bringing up the rear. There is no particular reason why one needs to place the First Horn Concerto first; Mozart wrote the concertos several years apart and probably never expected orchestras to play them in sequence, if, indeed, anyone played them all together in the first place. Anyway, No. 1 is the simplest, most straightforward of the bunch, and in many ways the most charming. In spite of Linder's seemingly languid pace, it, too, comes off effortlessly. The entire enterprise has a most appealing attitude of repose about it that can draw one in whether one likes it or not.

The disc is in Vanguard's Amadeus line, meaning it was a favorite recording of its producer (and Vanguard co-founder), Seymour Solomon. The high-definition 24-bit transfer makes the audio appear much newer than it is, the orchestra sounding clean and fresh, if a little bright and hard, the horn sounding even more round and dulcet than usual by comparison. There is almost no background noise to intrude on the proceedings.

Overall, this is an issue that every Mozart fan might want to investigate.

JJP

To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click on the forward arrow:


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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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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