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Strauss: Horn Concertos, Alphorn / Tuckwell, Ashkenazy


Release Date: 04/24/2007 
Label:  Decca   Catalog #: 430370   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Richard Strauss
Performer:  Barry TuckwellVladimir AshkenazyMarie McLaughlin
Conductor:  Vladimir Ashkenazy
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 0 Hours 57 Mins. 

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This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic.

Notes and Editorial Reviews

Barry Tuckwell’s smooth playing and obvious musicianship are very impressive, Marie McLaughlin provides fine singing in the two vocal works, and Ashkenazy proves himself a capable and sympathetic Straussian.

This is a valuable collection of Strauss horn works. But what is a selection from the late opera Capriccio doing here? The answer is furnished in the rather charming liner notes by Tuckwell: “The introduction to the final scene of Capriccio is, of course, an orchestral interlude. But it contains one of the best horn solos Strauss ever wrote. It is included in this collection as a tribute to a great composer, as a bonus for the listener and as an indulgence for the soloist.” Just why Richard Strauss (1864–1949) wrote
Read more so many inviting works for horn is explained by a simple fact: his father Franz Strauss (1822–1905) was perhaps the greatest virtuoso horn-player of his era (conductor Hans von Bülow went so far as to call the elder Strauss “the Joachim of the horn”).

Except for the Second Horn Concerto and the brief opera excerpt, all the works here are products of Strauss’s youth, when the composer was finding his own voice by writing music largely “in the style of” earlier masters. The Horn Concerto No. 1 (1882), was written for Papa Franz (the solo part is extremely difficult), is filled with youthful high spirits, and recalls the manner of Schumann and Mendelssohn. Strauss wrote two of the works here (with piano accompaniment) when he was just age 14: Alphorn and the Introduction, Theme, and Variations. The very last piece he wrote for horn and piano was the Andante (1888), composed for his parents’ silver wedding celebration. Lovely as these works are, none of them really gives any clue of the towering genius to come.

Sixty years separate the two horn concertos, one by a boy of 18 and the other from an old man of 78 (surely some sort of record for sheer stamina). Together, they are probably the finest works in their genre after the four by Mozart. The Second Horn Concerto (1942) is one of a trio of wind concertos from Strauss’s last years, along with the Oboe Concerto and the Duett-Concertino for clarinet and bassoon. All these late works exude an autumnal glow and genial warmth that are among the composer’s most endearing traits, as does the moving music from Capriccio.

Barry Tuckwell’s smooth playing and obvious musicianship are very impressive, while soprano Marie McLaughlin provides fine singing in the two vocal works. Ashkenazy, who has never been one of my favorite conductors, proves himself a capable and sympathetic Straussian, though the greater excellence of his piano-playing here confirms my belief that Askenazy’s primary talent is at the keyboard rather than on the podium. Regrettably, in the two incredibly taxing horn concertos, Tuckwell must be compared with the “gold standard” set by the tragically short-lived Dennis Brain with Wolfgang Sawallisch and the Philharmonia (EMI “Great Recordings of the Century”). Only in that context does Tuckwell’s artistry fall a bit short: fast runs are not articulated with Brain’s extraordinary ease and clarity, intonation is excellent but not as dead-center as what Brain routinely achieved, and Tuckwell cannot match Brain’s bewitching tone production. While Ashkenazy is generally alert, he doesn’t lead the Royal Philharmonic with quite the same verve that Sawallisch accomplished with the fabulous Philharmonia (possibly Sawallisch’s finest hour as a conductor).

On the other hand, I have to say that hearing these works in Decca’s first-rate stereo sound was a sensual pleasure that the agreeable, but older mono EMI does not equal. What’s more, the rare early works here, minor as they may be, are simply too delightful to pass up. Recommended.

-- Jeffrey J. Lipscomb, FANFARE
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Works on This Recording

1.
Concerto for Horn no 1 in E flat major, Op. 11 by Richard Strauss
Performer:  Barry Tuckwell (French Horn)
Conductor:  Vladimir Ashkenazy
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1882-1883; Germany 
Date of Recording: 02/1990 
Venue:  Walthamstow Town Hall, London 
Length: 16 Minutes 35 Secs. 
2.
Andante for Piano in C minor, AV 58 by Richard Strauss
Performer:  Barry Tuckwell (French Horn), Vladimir Ashkenazy (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1879; Germany 
Date of Recording: 02/1990 
Venue:  Walthamstow Town Hall, London 
Length: 4 Minutes 16 Secs. 
3.
Capriccio, Op. 85: Interlude "Moonlight Music" by Richard Strauss
Performer:  Barry Tuckwell (French Horn), Marie McLaughlin (Soprano)
Conductor:  Vladimir Ashkenazy
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1940-1941; Germany 
Date of Recording: 02/1990 
Venue:  Walthamstow Town Hall, London 
Length: 4 Minutes 4 Secs. 
Notes:   
4.
Alphorn, AV 29 by Richard Strauss
Performer:  Marie McLaughlin (Soprano), Vladimir Ashkenazy (Piano), Barry Tuckwell (French Horn)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1876; Germany 
Date of Recording: 02/1990 
Venue:  Walthamstow Town Hall, London 
Length: 5 Minutes 7 Secs. 
Language: German 
5.
Introduction, Theme and Variations for Horn and Piano in E flat major, AV 52 by Richard Strauss
Performer:  Vladimir Ashkenazy (Piano), Barry Tuckwell (French Horn)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1878; Germany 
Date of Recording: 02/1990 
Venue:  Walthamstow Town Hall, London 
Length: 6 Minutes 19 Secs. 
6.
Concerto for Horn no 2 in E flat major, AV 132 by Richard Strauss
Performer:  Barry Tuckwell (French Horn)
Conductor:  Vladimir Ashkenazy
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1942; Germany 
Date of Recording: 02/1990 
Venue:  Walthamstow Town Hall, London 
Length: 20 Minutes 34 Secs. 

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