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Mozart, Brahms, Beethoven, Dukas, Marais / Brain, Et Al

Release Date: 10/10/2000 
Label:  Bbc Legends   Catalog #: 4048   Spars Code: ADD 
Composer:  Wolfgang Amadeus MozartJohannes BrahmsLudwig van BeethovenPaul Dukas,   ... 
Performer:  Dennis BrainMax SalpeterCyril PreedyWilfrid Parry
Orchestra/Ensemble:  English String QuartetDennis Brain Ensemble
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Mono 
Length: 1 Hours 12 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Was Dennis Brain the greatest horn player ever? No argument from me. It's hard to imagine a more consummate master of any instrument or a more thoroughly developed musician, and his performances on this disc provide ample evidence of his prodigious artistry in something he especially loved--chamber music. Although he could have adopted and owned an exclusive role as virtuoso soloist, Brain chose to devote much of his time to performing in the more or less equal-partner settings offered by trios, quartets, and quintets, and in works composed for his particular skills, such as Britten's incomparable Serenade for Tenor, Horn, and Strings. There's a special poignancy to the three selections that open the program: the Beethoven Quintet and the Read more pieces for horn and piano by Dukas and Marais were recorded at the 1957 Edinburgh Festival concerts just one week before Brain's death while driving back to London. He was 36, and like tenor Fritz Wunderlich, who died of accidental causes at the same age (in 1966), the world was deprived of a great artist at the peak of his powers.

Brain's performance of Dukas' ravishing little frolic, Villanelle, is nothing less than sensational. It's not just a stream of formidable leaps and flashy runs, but, responding to his very enthusiastic audience, Brain finds room for subtle refinements and delivers a clinic in breath control, phrasing, and articulation within the context of a piece that's already devilishly difficult. Similarly, in the horn entrance in the Andante of the Mozart quintet--this work and the Brahms Trio were recorded in BBC's London studios six months earlier--Brain spins a strand of pure gold out of Mozart's elegantly simple theme. It's a small gesture but it's borne of a rare and intense musicality. The Brahms, in which Brain is joined by partners Max Salpeter (violin) and Cyril Preedy (piano), shows three musicians in complete communicative harmony, as energetically, intently involved in the performance as we can imagine. The live concert sound really does give us a sense of being there that August evening--and not only because of coughs (politely kept to breaks at ends of movements) or clapping. The piano is a bit tinny on top and the balances aren't consistent, but these turn out to be very minor artifacts; the studio recordings are not balanced any better (the strings in the Mozart are a bit stifled), but again, your ear immediately adapts. Brain fans will need this. [10/14/2000]
--David Vernier, ClassicsToday.com Read less

Works on This Recording

Quintet for Horn, Violin, 2 Violas and Cello in E flat major, K 407 (386c) by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Dennis Brain (French Horn)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  English String Quartet
Period: Classical 
Written: 1782; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 02/18/1957 
Venue:  Live  BBC Studios, London, England 
Length: 12 Minutes 56 Secs. 
Trio for Horn, Violin and Piano in E flat major, Op. 40 by Johannes Brahms
Performer:  Dennis Brain (French Horn), Max Salpeter (Violin), Cyril Preedy (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1865; Austria 
Date of Recording: 02/18/1957 
Venue:  Live  BBC Studios, London, England 
Length: 29 Minutes 8 Secs. 
Quintet for Piano, Oboe, Clarinet, Bassoon and Horn in E flat major, Op. 16 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Dennis Brain (French Horn)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Dennis Brain Ensemble
Period: Classical 
Written: 1796; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 08/24/1957 
Venue:  Live  Usher Hall, Edinburgh, Scotland 
Length: 22 Minutes 38 Secs. 
Villanelle for Horn and Piano by Paul Dukas
Performer:  Wilfrid Parry (Piano), Dennis Brain (French Horn)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1911; France 
Date of Recording: 08/24/1957 
Venue:  Live  Usher Hall, Edinburgh, Scotland 
Length: 5 Minutes 32 Secs. 
Vielles danses françaises (5): no 5, Le Basque by Marin Marais
Performer:  Wilfrid Parry (Piano), Dennis Brain (French Horn)
Period: Baroque 
Written: Paris, France 
Date of Recording: 08/24/1957 
Venue:  Live  Usher Hall, Edinburgh, Scotland 
Length: 1 Minutes 16 Secs. 

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