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Mozart: Horn Concerti / Ab Koster


Release Date: 01/29/2013 
Label:  Newton Classics   Catalog #: 8802160   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Ab Koster
Conductor:  Bruno Weil
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Tafelmusik
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
In Stock: Usually ships in 24 hours.  

Notes and Editorial Reviews



MOZART Horn Concertos Nos. 1-4. Rondo in E? (fragment); K 371 Bruno Weil, cond; Ab Koster (hn); Tafelmusik NEWTON 8802160 (62: 55)


You know how, sometimes, you take a chance on a recording of overly familiar music hoping (or at least thinking) that the recording will give you a little bit of a different aspect on the music so that you’ll enjoy it despite its familiarity? Well, that’s exactly how I felt when I asked to hear this reissue of a 1993 Read more recording (Sony Classical Vivarte 53369, which I hadn’t heard before) of Ab Koster playing the Mozart horn concertos with Tafelmusik, and I took the chance largely because of Tafelmusik, which I consider to be the premier early-music group of our day.


A friend of mine, who studied horn in the 1980s and whose all-time favorite recording of these concertos is Hermann Baumann’s first recording with Nikolaus Harnoncourt on Teldec, was openly skeptical. “I don’t know why you bothered,” quoth he. “No one plays it better than Baumann did on that recording, not even Dennis Brain.” Well, yes, I love the early Baumann versions too, but won’t you at least give the guy a chance?


Well. To say that both of us were flabbergasted is putting it mildly. First, there is Koster, playing a valveless horn built by Ignaz Lorenz circa 1803. Despite the slightly muffled tone, Koster makes it sound so even that only rarely (as in the first movement of Concerto No. 3) do you hear a slightly brassier tone as Koster’s hand position in the bell is forced to flatten in order to get the notes. Most of the time, he phrases over the difficulties so well that you might fool a hornist into thinking that several of these passages are played on a valved instrument. Moreover, Koster has a beautiful singing tone for the slow movements, felicitous technique for all the little turns and trills, and all of his cadenzas are unfailingly musical. In short, both my horn-playing friend and I were stunned by the quality of Koster’s playing. The only place where you can honestly say that Baumann is a little more impressive is in the first movement of Concerto No. 3, where he plays a chord on the horn. That’s almost impossible, but he pulls it off.


I had to look up Koster’s biography online as there is nothing in the booklet about him. Ab Koster was born in The Hague, Holland, as the son of a Dutch hornist. He completed his studies at the Royal Conservatory of Music, began playing principal horn in the NDR Symphony Hamburg in 1977, and has been a much-in-demand soloist—so much so that he had to leave the orchestra in 1990 in order to accept all the engagements he was offered. Koster also, it turns out, studied with Baumann himself, who called him the “leading hornist of his generation.” No kidding, Hermann! He has since concertized around the world, including all corners of Europe, the U.S. and Canada, Japan, Australia, and Taiwan.


Despite his not playing a chord in any of the concertos, Koster’s is, as I say, on so high a level that you just bask in the beauty of his tone and the liveliness of his rhythmic acuity. Oh, yes, there are moments when you can hear the brassy sound, but he minimizes them even smoother than Baumann did back in the 1970s. And then there is Tafelmusik. Stanley Sadie, who reviewed this album in Gramophone when it first came out, merely complimented the orchestra’s “luminous string texture.” I will go further. The orchestra, under Weil’s direction, has wit and sparkle when needed, it “sings” the legato passages beautifully, and in general is livelier than Harnoncourt’s Concentus Musicus Wien from the 1970s.


In toto, these recordings are better than Baumann’s just as Baumann’s were better than Dennis Brain’s. You might want all three, but if you’re a lover of horn music and/or these concertos, you’ll definitely want to add Koster’s performances to your collection.


FANFARE: Lynn René Bayley
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Works on This Recording

1.
Concerto for Horn no 2 in E flat major, K 417 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Ab Koster (French Horn)
Conductor:  Bruno Weil
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Tafelmusik
Period: Classical 
Written: 1783; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 09/1992 
Venue:  Doopsgezinde Church, Haarlem, Netherland 
Length: 13 Minutes 45 Secs. 
2.
Concerto for Horn no 3 in E flat major, K 447 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Ab Koster (French Horn)
Conductor:  Bruno Weil
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Tafelmusik
Period: Classical 
Written: 1784-1787; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 09/1992 
Venue:  Doopsgezinde Church, Haarlem, Netherland 
Length: 16 Minutes 22 Secs. 
3.
Concerto for Horn no 4 in E flat major, K 495 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Ab Koster (French Horn)
Conductor:  Bruno Weil
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Tafelmusik
Period: Classical 
Written: 1786; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 09/1992 
Venue:  Doopsgezinde Church, Haarlem, Netherland 
Length: 17 Minutes 22 Secs. 
4.
Concerto for Horn no 1 in D major, K 412 (386b) by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Ab Koster (French Horn)
Conductor:  Bruno Weil
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Tafelmusik
Period: Classical 
Written: 1791; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 05/1993 
Venue:  Glenn Gould Studio, Toronto, Canada 
Length: 8 Minutes 57 Secs. 
5.
Rondo for Horn and Orchestra in E flat major, K 371 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Ab Koster (French Horn)
Conductor:  Bruno Weil
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Tafelmusik
Period: Classical 
Written: 1781; Vienna, Austria 

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