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Long Road Home / William Bernewitz

Release Date: 09/18/2007 
Label:  Avie   Catalog #: 2126   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Johann Sebastian BachJohannes BrahmsRichard StraussFranz Schubert,   ... 
Performer:  Ursula OppensWilliam BarnewitzCarol AndersonAnne Carolyn Bird,   ... 
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 8 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

This disc is recommended, then, and not only for horn aficionados. I can only hope that we will be hearing more from William Barnewitz.

This collection of works with French horn is devoted to the art of hornist William Barnewitz, principal horn of both the Milwaukee Symphony and the Santa Fe Opera. The instrumental pieces were recorded in Milwaukee, while the vocal ones were made in Santa Fe with soloists of the Santa Fe Opera’s production of Massenet’s Cendrillon. Proceeds of sale benefit Parkinson’s Research and Education; Mr. Barnewitz was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2001. This recording showcases his talents extremely well. He also made a recording in 2001 which included excellent performances of the other
Read more Mozart Quintet (for horn and strings, K.407) and the Brahms Horn Trio, Op. 40 for Summit Records (Summit 288).

The program offers a nice variety of music, with the three songs and the Mozart Wind Quintet being highlights. Conradin Kreutzer is a rarely recorded composer of the early Romantic period who wrote operas, songs, and chamber music. His music is most commonly performed on song recitals. Das Mühlrad (The Mill Wheel), which bears a resemblance in its theme to Schubert’s Die Schöne Müllerin, but has its own individuality, was originally scored for clarinet, voice, and piano. The horn version also appears to be by Kreutzer. It is a beautiful work and is splendidly performed here by Joyce DiDonato, who is becoming very well known in the opera world. The only criticism I have here and indeed throughout much of the recording is in the microphone placement. The horn seems rather more prominent than the piano or even the voice, so the balance can be thrown off at times. One gets used to it especially with Barnewitz’s beautifully mellow, golden tone. His use of vibrato in many of the selections is also very well done — not too much, but just enough to enhance the romantic nature of much of the music.

Strauss wrote the Andante, the slow movement for an uncompleted sonata, for his parents’ twenty-fifth wedding anniversary, while his Alphorn was composed ten years earlier when Strauss was only fifteen years old. Neither piece gives any hint of the mature Strauss, although the Andante was actually composed in the same year as Don Juan. Both works show the influence that Strauss’s horn-playing father must have had one him and both display a lyrical romanticism typical earlier in the nineteenth century. The Alphorn is a particularly lovely song and the performance is good, although I would have preferred a less operatic voice than Jennifer Holloway’s. The piano also has a rather dead sound and could use some tuning. The horn playing leaves nothing to be desired, however. The balance is not a problem with the Andante. Even though the piano here is more of an accompaniment, Ursula Oppens’ piano has a brighter sound, is in good tune, and makes itself heard as appropriate.

Schubert’s famous late song, Auf dem Strom (On the River), has received many recorded performances, both with soprano and tenor. This one with Anne-Carolyn Bird reminded me of one of my favorite versions: the Benita Valente, Myron Bloom, Rudolf Serkin recording on Sony (SBK 48176). These artists knock almost a minute from the older recording, but in no way does it seem rushed. Bird has the right kind of lyric voice that does not overdo the dramatic elements of the song and Barnewitz again is the perfect partner. His trills are particularly good. If only the piano projected more, I would rank this alongside the Sony as my favorite female version of the work.

Mozart’s Quintet for Piano and Winds is one of his most well-known chamber works and one of the first written for this combination of instruments. It greatly influenced Beethoven in his similar work. It beautifully integrates the four winds with the piano and this performance is superb. The balance here is judicious with none of the instruments unduly predominant. The wind soloists are all members of the Milwaukee Symphony and all but the oboist are principals. The pianist is again the excellent Ursula Oppens. The musicians all sound like they are as delighted with the music as the listener is in this vivacious, yet thoughtful performance. I detected only one instance of coarseness in the clarinet tone (at 4:14-4:20 in the second movement) and that may have been due to the recording.

The other Mozart work, "Lungi da te, mio bene", an aria from the early opera Mitridate rounds out the disc’s main attractions. It has a beautifully lyrical soprano solo and the horn is an equal partner. Mozart assigned the role of Mitridate’s son in this aria to a soprano and undoubtedly had heard a horn player that inspired him to write the substantial horn part. The piece begins with a lengthy horn introduction and then accompanies the soprano practically throughout the piece interspersed with solo interludes. The piano, in this reduction, plays a more minor role. Eglise Gutierrez has a lovely Mozartean voice and again Barnewitz partners her well.

The disc begins and ends with "encore" pieces: Barnewitz’s arrangements of popular Bach and Brahms pieces and they sound well enough on the horn. I, however, prefer them in their vocal contexts.

This disc is recommended, then, and not only for horn aficionados. I can only hope that we will be hearing more from William Barnewitz.

-- Leslie Wright, MusicWeb International
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Works on This Recording

Saint Matthew Passion, BWV 244: no 75, Mache dich, mein Herze by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Ursula Oppens (Piano), William Barnewitz (French Horn)
Period: Baroque 
Written: ?1727; Leipzig, Germany 
Notes: Arranger: William Barnewitz. 
Songs (5), Op. 49: no 4, Wiegenlied by Johannes Brahms
Performer:  Ursula Oppens (Piano), William Barnewitz (French Horn)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1868; Austria 
Notes: Arrangers: William Barnewitz; Ursula Oppens. 
Andante for Horn and Piano, AV 86A by Richard Strauss
Performer:  Ursula Oppens (Piano), William Barnewitz (French Horn)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1888; Germany 
Auf dem Strom, D 943/Op. 119 by Franz Schubert
Performer:  Carol Anderson (Piano), William Barnewitz (French Horn), Anne Carolyn Bird (Soprano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1828; Vienna, Austria 
Language: German 
Alphorn, AV 29 by Richard Strauss
Performer:  William Barnewitz (French Horn), Jennifer Holloway (Soprano), Carol Anderson (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1876; Germany 
Language: German 
Das Mühlrad by Conradin Kreutzer
Performer:  William Barnewitz (French Horn), Joyce DiDonato (Mezzo Soprano), Carol Anderson (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: Germany 
Language: German 
Quintet for Piano and Winds in E flat major, K 452 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  William Barnewitz (French Horn), Margaret Butler (Oboe), Todd Levy (Clarinet),
Ursula Oppens (Piano), Theodore Soluri (Bassoon)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1784; Vienna, Austria 
Mitridate, rè di Ponto, K 87 (74a): Lungi da te, mio bene by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Eglise Gutierrez (Soprano), Carol Anderson (Piano), William Barnewitz (French Horn)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1770; Milan, Italy 
Language: Italian 

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