Notes and Editorial Reviews
MASTERPIECES FOR HORN AND STRINGS • Steven Gross (hn); Steven Stolen (ten); Dale Clevenger, cond; Camerata Indianapolis • SUMMIT 490 (63:33)
BRITTEN Serenade for Tenor, Horn, and Strings. LARSSON Horn Concertino. JACOB Horn Concerto
"Of special interest to horn aficionados and general listeners alike is the Masterpieces program, particularly for the Britten Serenade. I’m going to go out on a limb here and claim that this is quite possibly the finest horn playing to be heard on any recording ever made of the Serenade. Yes, that includes Dennis Brain, Barry Tuckwell, Michael Thompson, James Stagliano, Ib Lanzky-Otto, et. al. Each of these has its strong points, but Gross outclasses them all, for beyond the
golden tone and complete technical assurance there is a sense of natural ease to his playing that takes the music far beyond the notes. Though notoriously difficult, it all sounds like child’s play. The poetry Gross evokes from the horn through tone alone renders the texts almost superfluous. In this respect his closest competitor is Lanzky-Otto. The playing is consistently compelling, full of imaginative touches of dynamics, weight, articulation, color, and rhythmic subtleties. I like to think that the horn he blows combines the heroism of Siegfried and the woodland poetry of Oberon, though with more of the latter than the former. Tenor Steven Stolen is a sensitive musician but he cannot match Gross in the imagination of his delivery, and he is so far recessed that the words are often unintelligible.
The other two works on the disc are worthy companions. Gordon Jacob’s substantial, 25-minute concerto is now 60 years old but for some reason still exists out on the fringes of the repertory—a shame, since it is full of bright, peppy tunes, a joyous spirit, and enough virtuosity to keep any would-be soloist pleased as punch. Lars-Erik Larsson’s Concertino is one of 12 he wrote for various instruments as op. 45. It is aptly named, for it is shorter than and not quite in the league of Jacob’s concerto, but follows its general layout with a joyously muscular first movement filled with soaring lyricism, a more introspective second, and a brightly exuberant third."
FANFARE: Robert Markow
Works on This Recording
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