Songs of Love, War and Melancholy

The operatic fantasies of Jacques-François Gallay
Anneke Scott natural horn, Steven Devine piano [Erard 1851], Lucy Crowe soprano
66:41
Resonus RES10153

This is one of two discs this month of which I have to say, ‘This is the most enormous fun’. It is the third of three recitals of Gallay’s music which Anneke Scott has recorded with support from the Gerald Finzi Trust and when I’ve finished writing this I’m going to order the other two. In the 1830s and 1840s Gallay was essentially Mr Horn in Paris, taking the technique of hand-horn playing to frankly unimaginable and barely practical heights – this repertoire would be still be hard with the full panoply of modern valves on the instrument.

But Anneke Scott is equal to it all – bravura does not even begin to describe her playing. The music is based on material from operas by Bellini and Donizetti which Gallay would have played in his position as solo horn of the Théâtre Italien, and is a mixture of moreorless straight transcription and more free treatments. Although her French diction is not of the very best, the three items in which Lucy Crowe joins add another dimension to the listener’s pleasure – the soprano/horn duet cadenza on track 3 is delicious. The booklet is excellent but in English only – German and French speakers must download from the Resonus website. And I must not fail to mention Steven Devine’s playing (on an 1851 Érard) of the quasi-orchestral piano parts – a masterly blend of élan and deference. Time to go shopping. I enjoyed this – a lot.

David Hansell