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Bohemian Horn Concertos / Gross, Havlik, Camerata Filarmonica Bohemia

Gross / Camerata Filarmonica Bohemia / Havlik
Release Date: 09/14/2010 
Label:  Summit Records   Catalog #: 546   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Jiří HavlíkGiovanni PuntoAntonio Rosetti
Performer:  Steven Gross
Conductor:  Jiří Havlík
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Camerata Filarmonica Bohemia
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Back Order: Usually ships in 2 to 3 weeks.  

Notes and Editorial Reviews

BOHEMIAN HORN CONCERTOS • Steven Gross (hn); Ji?í Havlík, cond; Camerata Filarmonica Bohemia • SUMMIT 546 (55:58)

HAVLÍK Horn Concerto. STICH-PUNTO Horn Concerto No. 5. ROSETTI Horn Concerto No. 2

"Seldom in recent years have I heard a horn recital on disc as impressive and richly rewarding as Steven Gross’s latest, titled Bohemian Horn Concertos . Every movement of every concerto is eminently enjoyable, production values are of the highest quality, the soloist is superb, and his backup orchestra sounds just as committed and professional as he does.

Gross’s playing brims with confidence, Read more flair, and authority. He has the legendary natural facility and musicianship of Dennis Brain, the clarity of articulation of Philip Farkas, and the tone quality of Hermann Baumann—golden, radiant, well focused, and absolutely brilliant in the high range. It is the kind of sound that makes a youngster tug at his father’s trouser legs and beg him to be allowed to learn the instrument.

The program opens with a concerto by Ji?í Havlík, who wrote the work in 1976 and first performed it himself as part of his Prague Conservatory graduation recital. (Havlík has played in the Czech Philharmonic since 1979.) The concerto is just modern enough to offer something stimulating without alienating listeners of even the most conservative bent. Had Frank Martin written a horn concerto it might have sounded something like Havlík’s. Right from the striking, piquantly dissonant chords that open the work, the ears are constantly engaged with the expertly paced progression of ideas. Melodic ideas are interesting and memorable, the solo writing challenging and idiomatic, as one would expect from a composer who is also a professional horn player.

As horn players well know, neither Giovanni Punto nor Antonio Rosetti was Italian. Both of these late-18th-century composers were of Bohemian origin but changed their names (Jan Václav Stich and Franz Anton Rösler, or Rössler) for professional reasons. Mozartians know Punto (also an outstanding horn player) as the dedicatee of his Sinfonia Concertante for winds. Beethoven dedicated his Horn Sonata to him. Both Punto and Rosetti wrote prolifically for the instrument; Punto’s catalog includes 14 concertos, Rosetti’s 10 for one or two horns. Their examples on this disc are thoroughly pleasing works in the Haydn-Boccherini mold. There is nothing groundbreaking about either of them, but then why should there be? Bright’n’breezy opening movements, charmingly lyrical slow movements, and bouncy, hunting-style finales were the norm in Punto’s and Rosetti’s day, and that is exactly what we find here. Anyone looking for well-crafted horn concertos beyond the Mozart repertory can do no better than turn to Gross’s choices. I would even go so far as to say that the Rosetti work is on a level with Mozart’s concertos.

Havlík proves as adept a conductor as he is a composer, leading the Camerata Filarmonica Bohemia (all members of the Czech Philharmonic) with elegance, panache, and innate musicianship of the highest order. Phrases are lovingly shaped, textures are transparent and there is not a trace of fussiness or strain. The acoustical setting is both warm and natural, balance between soloist and orchestra is exemplary, and the sense of open-air spaciousness lends an additional measure of pleasure to this outstanding release. This one is definitely headed for my Best of the Year list."

FANFARE: Robert Markow
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Works on This Recording

Concerto for Horn and String Orchestra by Jiří Havlík
Performer:  Steven Gross (Horn)
Conductor:  Jiří Havlík
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Camerata Filarmonica Bohemia
Period: 21st Century 
Written: Czech Republic 
Concerto for Horn no 5 in F major by Giovanni Punto
Performer:  Steven Gross (Horn)
Conductor:  Jiří Havlík
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Camerata Filarmonica Bohemia
Period: Classical 
Written: 18th Century; Bohemia 
Concerto for Horn in E flat major by Antonio Rosetti
Performer:  Steven Gross (Horn)
Conductor:  Jiří Havlík
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Camerata Filarmonica Bohemia
Period: Classical 

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